Day 3 (RALLY DAY 2)
The Stakes Get Raised
All Photography By: Bink Designs
ENSENADA, BAJA CALIF. – At NORRA we always talk about how The Mexican 1000 is “The Happiest Race On Earth!”. It’s true, everyone has a great time. At the Inaugural NORRA 500 it was much of the same. It’s a celebration of Baja racing. We did have some attrition on day one of racing, and some teams did repairs overnight before racing resumed on day three of the rally. Everyone was hyped up about the STEEL-IT King of the Mountain timed run up to Mike’s Sky Ranch. You would think that many of the seasoned veterans would just consider it more of the same, but you’d be wrong. Several drivers were trying so hard, that they found the limits of traction. Mike Diorio and his Father Joe went off the road. If not for Mike’s experience, it might have been worse. He knew enough to point it downhill, and keep it on all 4 tires. They thought they would be spending the night out there, but they were able to clear a path, and get back on the road. They never made it up to Mike’s, but they were able to finish the course.
Another driver who found the limits was the veteran Lightning Larry Ragland. He spun out and got wedged between some rocks. “We started out on the hill climb too fast,” said Larry. “I lost it and we were crossed up between some rocks. I killed the motor, but we got started and out of the way before the next truck came. After that we took our time and made sure to finish the race. We are pretty sure we went penalty free. We did our best to nail it.” Unofficially, Larry did nail it. He is the unofficial winner. His car owner, and friend Jimmy Smith committed to coming back next year. He said how great it was to race with his best friend Larry.
One of the racers who pushed Ragland was the youngster Jax Redline. Redline was driving a Trophy Truck for the first time, and was rock solid. He was the first truck to cross the line both days. His Dad Shane told him to go, but be smart. He did just that. “Being the first truck on the road was mind-blowing,” said Jax. “The road to Mike’s was fun; lots of rocks, and cliffs with some big jumps.” Dad Shane said NORRA is the most fun race they do, and they would be back next year.
Zak Langley was the third driver to cross the line, and everyone anticipated that Mark Post would be close behind. Post had problems which caused them some down time. The end popped off his steering rack so they had to stop. “We lost the steering ram so it shut us down,” said Post. “It was fortunate that it happened during a transit when we were going 20. It could have been much worse when we were going 120.”
The course after Mike’s was technical so the finishing order had some surprises. Thomas Purcell finished 6th overall in his Can Am X3 turbo UTV. Right behind him was Scott Steinberger, also in a Can Am. Steinberger said that they caught and passed Butch Jensen who was driving an LS powered Alumi craft with over 600 horsepower. When it gets tight and technical, the UTV’s really shine. Steinberger said that Butch was probably mad at him. One of the best things about racing NORRA is that as John Langley says, “At most races you get to know the other cars. At NORRA, you get to know the people.”
Another racer who is credited with an unofficial win was the number 211 Challenger Buggies class car driven by Kevin Smith with his childhood friend Johnny Kaiser navigating. Smith and Kaiser have known each other since they were kids because their fathers raced together. In fact, Smith pointed out that he was sitting on the same seat riser that his father used when he raced with Johnny’s Dad. Their win makes them 2 for 2 as they also won the Mexican 1000.
The bikes had a much less dramatic day of racing. The Busch’s had a good clean run, Tony Donna, and Jeff Leonard got their navigating down pat, and Scott Toepfer finished on his 1967 BSA Hornet. The Safari class had another laid back day soaking up the Baja experience. They stopped at what Michael Emery described as “A very nice restaurant in the middle of nowhere.”
With racing concluded, the partying started. After a night of revelry, and a good night’s sleep, everyone will be ready to celebrate the entire event at the awards ceremony on Sunday. We will have a recap and full results, and in case you missed anything the live feed videos are posted at norra.com.
Beginning in 2010, the National Off Road Racing Association (NORRA) began promoting a rebirth of the NORRA Mexican 1000 rally. The unique off-road rally was co-created by promoter Mike Pearlman to consist of special stages (unlimited speed timed stages in the dirt) linked together by controlled speed liaison / transit sections (highway). The one-of-a-kind, once-a-year, five-day rally includes vintage off-road vehicles and motorcycles, as well as modern pre-runners, trucks, buggies, UTVs, bikes and desert Rally Raid cars.
Pearlman’s late father Ed and others established the first running of the NORRA Mexican 1000 off-road rally in November of 1967, which eventually became internationally recognized and evolved into the Baja 1000 in the mid-1970’s.
NORRA enjoys corporate partnerships with Yokohama Tire, Method Race Wheels, South Point Hotel Casino, Bilstein Shock Absorbers, STEEL-IT, RIGID, Multitool USA, Timberline, Schampa, Satellite Phone Store.com, PCI Race Radios, Warn, Biltwell, USActionTrax, Joe Hauler, the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame (ORMHOF), B3KREATIV, and many more.