Retro Racing's #110 NORRA Mexican 671 race report

Rory

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1 CV boot replacement
1 CV replacement
1 engine swap
1 Stella unit swap
1 cliff
1 tow strap
1 GPS malfunction
671 race miles out of 1254....No Bueno

We had high hopes at this years NORRA Mexican 1000 as Norm "Retro" Francis invited myself and Ed Maurin to race his 1977 Chenowth 1000 5 link at this years event. Norm had spent a lot of time and money on this prep and was anxious to show what his car could do in Mexico. I headed out of Arizona early Friday morning and headed for California to pick up the crew....

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I had to make a stop at my good buddy Chad Fryman's shop (Ntense Tees) to pick up our team shirts, wow, they turned out FANTASTIC! Thanks Chad, great job as usual. It was then off to pick up Norm In Murrieta and then Ed maurin and sidekick Paul LaVine at the airport in San Diego.

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We arrived in Ensenada around 4pm Friday night and decided we would push the car through tech and get that out of the way...

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We had all day to fiddle with the car on Saturday and took care of the little things like food shopping and making sure the chase truck and dump cans were full of fuel. It was then time for the driver meeting...

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We buttoned up the car and headed to our rooms for what was going to be a long week. Race morning was upon us and Ed Maurin was suited up and ready for his 89 mile stage. While on the transit stage out of town he said that the Stella unit was not working. We had him stop about 2 miles before the first stage and checked the wiring. All was good on our end, then we figured maybe it has to get to the start of the stage to start working. Well, in the mean time about 7-8 vehicles got in front of us and we started about 8 minutes back from where we should have....no time loss, just positions.

Ed started his stage and it was apparent that the Stella was not working at all. In a single seater it is a little harder because you can't use the road book but we do make notes in the car. The problem was that the GPS did not seem to be matching up with the mileage notes. We lost a lot of time before and after the speed zones and it was very frustrating. We soldiered on and Eddy had a decent run for his 1st stage and then I was getting in for the run to San Felipe.

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Photo credit unknown

As I started down the transit stage at 60mph I noticed the temp on the motor was at 260. Hmmmm, I just got in, how can it be 260? Engine was running fine, Oil pressure was good, not puking oil.....hmmmm. I radio to the crew, seems like it might be a bad gauge. I hit the dry lake after the start of the stage and now the temp is getting near 290.....I let off the gas and slow to 55mph for the rest of the stage, there is no way i'm going to risk blowing up this CB Performance motor. I hit a few more speed zones (or so i thought) and Mark Stahl goes blowing by me at speed. Marks a smart racer and there is no way he is going to speed in a speed zone, so i pick up my pace a little and look at my mileage notes again and they dont add up.
We make it to the finish on day 1 and I pull up to the Stella guys and give them an earful (sorry guys). They replace my old one with a new one and i head south to Percebu to where our rental house is located...

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We had plenty of daylight to check out the car. we check the motor out and can't find any proof that the car was actually running hot. Plugs look good, oil isn't burnt or even smell burnt, valves are adjusted within spec and its not burning oil. We did notice a wiring issue with the fan so that got fixed so we feel we dodged a bullet with the motor getting hot. The only other thing that the car needed was a new CV boot...

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Day 2 started with Retro racing 9 minutes out of first place behind Jim Greenway in the Raceco. Jake Johnson in the Bob Lawrence/Dave Tilton entry was running STRONG on Day 1 but that "funny air" on Diablo dry lake popped there motor (that lake bad has eaten a lot of motors). We like to tease Bob a lot and have fun with him but the last thing we wanted to see from one of our competitors was bad luck this early in the race....that sucks.

The Lynn Chenowth crew changing motors in the #229 entry the night of Day 1...
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Ed would again get the start out of San Felipe and have a good run. Somewhere around halfway through the stage he said he hit hard and the motor changed pitch. We the chase crew told Ed that he was on his own for the stage as we had to get to the start of stage 2 to fuel the car so it would make it to BOLA. Eddy started the 64 mile transit stage to south of Puertecitos when the car lost all forward movement about 15 miles into the transit. a quick look and the drivers side CV failed at the trans. Quick thinking on Ed's part, he unrolled the tow strap from the front bumper and within 2 minutes a friendly gentlemen in a black Ford econovan pulled over, strapped him up and towed him 50 miles to where we were located.
Once Eddy arrived we had everything ready to change the entire axle assembly in about 15-20 minutes. We took a quick look at the motor, couldn't find anything wrong with it and i got in and continued to the start of stage 2 to BOLA.

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Photo credit RDC

The run south to BOLA is a fun one, I had a blast driving that Chenowth through the tight and twisty terrain near Punta Preita and then to the finish. We received a 13 minute penalty for showing up late to our stage 2 start but we'll take the 13 minutes compared to a field CV change with only one guy and limited tools. When it was all said an done we were 21 minutes behind Jim Greenway in 2nd place but there was still a lot of racing to do. It was now time to do a little CV prep on the car because it had us a little worried. CV prep is no fun, but CV prep on a 5 link is absolutely NO FUN. The 5 link poses more problems as the bars are in the way when trying to manipulate the cv's into place without letting grease get in the bolt holes. It took way more time than it needed to and with the gale force winds kicking up in BOLA it made it a true pain in the booty.

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BOLA took its toll on a few of us, especially me. Once we finally got the Cv's done we were trying to figure out the motor. It sounded horrible at mid range but it wasn't losing any power......just sounded like crap. We checked everything again including oil, plugs, air cleaner, jets, ignition....nothing was out of sorts. I was also irritated that someone had moved our race car from the spot we had parked it in front of the hotel and my first response was to blame the people who were parked where i was at. unfortunately they were NOT the ones who did it and I made an ass out of myself but then apologized to them for being an idiot. Sorry again to my good buddy Mark Stahl and his entire crew. Note to self, DONT BE THAT GUY.

Day 3 we started off with a better attitude, Norm Francis and Paul LaVine worked their butts off the night before and we were ready for the 1st marathon day. BOLA to Visciano would be 136 miles followed by a 52 mile transit stage and then a 208 mile run into Loreto. I was going to do the 1st stage and Ed the 2nd.

My run would be very difficult, only because of the amount of dust we all had to contend with...except for the guy who started first. It was a freight train of cars with everyone buzzing the car in front of them with their Stella device but no one was paying attention to them. I did for the first couple cars but then it became apparent that cars were buzzing you about 900 feet back and not even close to your bumper. From then on, if you weren't on my bumper i wasn't moving over....because i was being slowed down in the dust cloud in front of me.

Fast forward to Walker's Corner. I know where Walker's corner is, i have raced by it many times, i marked it on my book, it's on the GPS and it's on the Stella. I have seen many cars off that cliff and i was proud to say i have never been one of them....until this day. I saw it on my GPS, I heard the Stella go off, I was blinded by dust, I was doing 10 mph and then all of a sudden clean air and 2 cars in front of my down the cliff! I tried to save it and turned hard left but it was too late, the car was sliding down the face of the cliff so i just turned with it and went down. No problem, just scared the crap out of me. Not sure who it was but I "THINK" it was Troy Johnson from "The fab School" who helped guide me out. I lost approx 2 minutes but lost 3 spots on the road by slower cars.

Once back on the road i followed the dust freight train until i had finally got past the last vehicle and into clean air. I looked at the odometer and it was the 80 mile mark.....80 miles of miserable dust, I could only imagine how much time i had lost to Jim Greenway.

Coming into Visciano, the motor pitch changed again, only 2 miles from the end of the stage. I thought it might be fuel because we thought we might have to dump 3 gallons to make it to the finish. As we finished the stage I pulled into the pit and we topped the car off with fuel and put Norm in for the transit so he could hear the motor. Norm went 2 feet, shut the car off and said "PULL THE MOTOR". We now scrambled to do a quick motor swap. We hadn't blown the motor but Norm didn't want to take any chances with a 208 mile stage that was a very bad area if you had problems.

Turns out that Jim Greenway had problem on this stage but i never saw him due to the dust. We had made up our 21 minutes and now had an 18 minute lead! The motor swap went pretty fast, we got Eddy back in the car for stage 2 from San Ignacio to Loreto and sent him on his way. We were penalized 1 hour 24 minutes for being late to the stage but with the time we made up it put us only 1 hour 6 minutes back. With a couple big stages left in the race we felt we still had a shot, i mean we had enough bad luck for the team, surely it should be smooth sailing from here out...

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Norm Francis putting the clutch plate together for the spare motor.

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We actually found a nice little spot to change the motor in Visciano.

As Norm, Paul and myself enjoyed some Taco's with the Yokohama executives at Rice and Beans, Eddy was working his way south to Loreto. Once our belly's were full of Taco's and Orange fanta, we headed down HWY 1 towards loreto. As we were approx 20 minutes North of Mulege, my phone rang. My first thought was "Oh, it must be the hotel wondering if were going to make it". Instead it was a NORRA "Bike" sweep crew letting us know that Eddy was down with a broken transmission near La Purisma. UGH. Really? REALLY?!?!?! It was now 5:30pm. We knew we were 2.5 hours from Loreto and needed to drop our stuff off at the hotel to make room for Eddy. We had a spare trans but we were crunching numbers as we traveled. At one point we were only 40 miles "as a crow flys" from the race car, problem was we had to travel almost 250 miles to get to him due to the fact we didn't have a nice little 4x4 retrieval vehicle to go get him, just the big old F350 truck and trailer with stock wheels and tires. It was going to be a long night.

Once we got to Eddy it was midnight. We loaded the car on the trailer then headed back towards loreto. Along the way we came upon a NORRA sweep crew who had been having transmission problems also. We had borrowed some trans fluid from the pit and helped out "Paul" who had been stranded for the past 4 hours on a road that barley anyone travels on.

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We spent the next couple hours making sure they got to Insurgentes safely and then continued to Loreto. We pulled into Loreto around 4;30-5:00 and we were spent. We had a team meeting and discussed what to do. Basically we were going to miss the start of the first stage but could have made the start of stage 2. My personal feeling was if we couldn't finish every mile of the race i wasn't interested in finishing at all. To me it would have been a shallow victory for the team. keep in mind this is my personal feelings but it was shared with the team. the difficult decision was made to pull the plug. Talk about disheartening, we truly believed we had a good shot at the win and an outside shot at the Overall Era. With that being said we wanted to congratulate Jim Greenway on his 2nd straight NORRA win and also our good buddy Mark Stahl on his impressive come-from-behind win and also take the Overall Era trophy for the 4th straight year.....great job guys.

As for Retro racing, we headed back north and will contemplate the 2020 running of the NORRA Mexican 1000 and try and figure out what car we will be racing. I will say this, that Chenowth 1000 was one of the best working buggies I've ever driven, and also one of the Funnest! Thank you again Norm, I appreciate the chance to drive such a bitchen race car, and also one of the coolest looking!

GoPro footage being compiled, video coming....hopefully soon.

Special thanks to:

CB Performance- The power was unreal, but you need to keep your oil cool if you want to keep any motor healthy.
Yokohama tires- Same tires the entire race, no flats, could have finished the race on the same tires.
Method Race Wheels- No wheels issues and he hit some big rocks out there.
Bilstein shocks- Soaking up the Baja terrain like a Champ!
Benco Transaxles- We believe our early CV issue contributed to the trans failure, Benco has never let us down.
KC HiLites- We didn't have any night driving but we were ready to light up the night with our DayLighters.
Rugged Radios- Always connected
Speed Strap- Tie downs and limit straps
PRP Seats- Riding in comfort the entire way
Concept Powder coat- A little biased but I thought it was one of the best looking cars out there....thanks guys.
Jamar- No issues with our hubs, brakes or pedals.
E-Power Steering- smooth steering the entire time, less effort = less tired.
Pyrotect- No issues with the fuel cell or safety equipment.
ORW- Thanks again for all the help, you guys are the best.
Rowland racing- Stanley helps keep the wheels turning at Retro racing
Ntense tee's- Always top quality apparel

Eddy Maurin- We have been racing together the past couple years and we make a good team as our driving styles compliment each other.
Paul LaVine- Thanks for supporting our cause, we always have a blast when you follow us down the Peninsula, hope to have you do it again with us next year.

And Norm Francis- Wow, thank you for trusting us in your race car. You built one hell of a race car and you did everything in your power to get us to the finish line. Sometimes it's just not meant to be, but i hope we can try again and get you a NORRA trophy, you deserve one buddy.

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Zambo

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Good writeup Rory. If there were no bad days then there would be no good days. Hardest thing for me is that the race is only once a year, so when you have a bad one it takes a long time to get back out there and make up for it.

One year I helped Rudy race the 1000 in the RPM class 8 truck. About the biggest issue any of us had was a broken fan belt and we won the race by close to 4 hours. I barely remember the race because there were no cool stories to tell.
 

Fourstroker

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Great write-up. Car looked great. Was wondering if you continued after day 2. Saw it on the strap near Huerfanito. Working on my race story as well
 

LantanaTX

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Great write up Rory! I wish we all could have made it to the finish. Congrats to Jim Greenway on the win (again) and to the Era Champion, Mark Stahl.
 

ACME

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Great write up and appreciate the honest commentary!
 

sredish

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we (one of the sweep crews) came in to that spot where 'paul' was having trans troubles and brought him a bunch of fluid and hose. we were the guys in the grey dodge megacab that I think you followed out part of the way. sorry to hear how it ended up, that was a tough night for a bunch of people. we followed 816 to san juanico and ended up camping there for the night once we knew the rest made it on into insurgentes. a bad time in baja always ends up being a great memory when you look back; the struggles are the memories I seem to remember and hold fondly the most.
 

Mark Stahl

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Rory you and your whole team put in a tremendous effort with a new untried car. All the work your team went through would get anyone down. Safety can be a serious factor with lack of adequate sleep. See Bob Bowers’s What about you. BOLA parking lot was a cluster you know what so don’t worry about venting. I saw your car sitting out in the middle of the parking lot and I wanted to move it in closer as you guys weren’t around. All good except for not being able to race and interact (mess) with you guys all the way to Cabo. Next year my friend. I know at some point someone will end my win streak. It could be you!!!
 

landshark

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Great write up Rory and it was great meeting you and the whole team! I just got back from Cabo last night and will post a report of my own - looking forward to 2020!
 

TaylorAnderson31

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thanks for the story Rory. We barely made it this year, it was a tough one for Olivia as well.

If you ever find yourself needing to swap a motor again in Vizcaino, 1/8 ,mile past the first stoplight, Juniors Taller, a shop we have used a couple of times, they are great guys and will help out any racer who needs it.

until next year buddy.
 
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