San Jose del Cabo, Baja California Sur, Mexico
On the 50th anniversary of off-road racing in Baja California Mexico and the 49th year after men put wrenches to bolts on a Ford Bronco in Wayne Michigan, we brought that very Bronco to the start line of the same race in Ensenada Baja California, the NORRA Mexican 1000.
Thirteen hundred miles later, the truck now named Caballo Del Diablo and it’s much younger drivers Boyd Jaynes and Brian Godfrey, emerged in San Jose del Cabo victorious in class and era… all while wearing mariachi fire suits and classic charro mustaches in open face helmets.
In past years the NORRA Mexican 1000 would travel four hundred plus miles from Ensenada on day one to Bahia de Los Angeles, but for 2017 the distance was cut in half by adding an additional overnight in San Felipe. On this first day we would pass the many stuck vehicles in the sand outside San Felipe with our engine temperatures soaring but never needing to use our 4 wheel drive. Our primary competition hit a huge washout early in stage one breaking steering components and leaving us with a comfortable class lead of nearly 3 hours at the end of the day.
Day two’s first stage went down the Puertecitos route along the Sea of Cortez. While a thankful reprieve from a normally brutal day one, the mostly asphalt miles and many speed limited zones made the day two first special stage feel more like a transit stage.
After the short but swift second special stage the Caballo del Diablo Bronco arrived in Bahia de Los Angeles 80th overall in the standings, first in class. The evening spent in the remote seaside village was extraordinarily windy with gusts flapping rooftops and causing a power blackout while the Caballo del Diablo crew opened the Ford 9” rearend to preventatively change an axle bearing in the darkness before the start in the morning.
“Day three things start to get serious” announced driver Brian Godfrey as he zipped up his mariachi fire suit prior to starting the mostly fast sandy 136 mile first stage to Vizcaino, but it wasn’t until the second 170 mile stage leaving from the doorstep of the 300 year old mission in San Ignacio that those words rang true. Brutally rough rocky trails, steep mountain passes, water crossings, racing in darkness and repairs made during a lengthy pit stop in San Juanico, made for a torturous five and a half hour finishing time that battered both Bronco and occupants. During service in Loreto a cracked shock tower was discovered and welded up in time for the start of the second longest day of the rally, day four from Loreto to La Paz.
The timing sheets on the morning of day four revealed that teammate Taylor Anderson was only 20 minutes behind the Bronco for the best time in the pioneer era adding a new sense of urgency to the start of the day’s racing. The familiar first stage out of Loreto was marred by uncharacteristic navigational errors while being closely followed by teammate Anderson up the windy road to San Javier but it was Anderson who would ultimately get the forced error stopping for a flat tire before reaching the centuries old village. At 174 miles, stage 2 was the longest stage of the rally and filled with every type of terrain found in Baja but most notably the first appearance of significant silt beds. Arriving at the worst silt section on the stage with engine temperatures climbing to dangerous levels and finding a dozen competitors stuck and attempting to dig out, we were in no shape to help. The split second decision was made to keep a steady heavy throttle without stopping to engage 4 wheel drive passing drivers buried to the waist beside their vehicles. While powering through the deep two track the Bronco nearly rolled over bicycling through a turn but emerged on the other side of the silt bed with zero loss of time and quickly regained sensible engine temperatures on the harder packed dirt.
At the oceanfront finish in La Paz a welcome reception from the Baja Sur Bronco club was waiting for the drivers after a long and harrowing day.
Leaving La Paz on day five with a healthy lead on our competitors had the team on edge as we have had our share of problems within sight of the finish. It was determined a more prudent strategy for the day would be to not drive at race speed but merely cruise through the remaining 150 miles in to San Jose Del Cabo. The strategy worked… 1st place finish (pioneer 4×4), fastest of all pioneer era vehicles, winning for the second year the “Steve McQueen memorial trophy” and a 70th overall finisher. The 5th win out of 8 starts gives them the best record of any team in NORRA.
Many thanks to our team, families and generous partners for which we would never make it across the border in San Diego.
– Vaya Con Diablos
Photography By: Ernesto Araiza