AGUA DULCE, CALIF. – After months of anticipation, the Yokohama NORRA Mexican 1000 Presented By Meyers Manx has finally begun. On Sunday morning competitors will leave the line on stage one of the rally, but for now it’s all about the celebration at Bilstein tech inspection in Ensenada. Two full days of fun in the sun have taken place. Many teams showed up on Friday so they could relax and enjoy things on Saturday. Others were thankful for one more day spent preparing for “The Happiest Race On Earth!”, the Mexican 1000.
Fans were treated to two full days of the most incredible off-road cars and the interesting adventure seekers who drive them, build them, and support them. The “People Watching” taking place at tech inspection is downright amazing as you can rub elbows with icons, current top professionals, hall of famers and regular Joes from around the globe. The Mexican 1000 is a truly international sensation.
The most rancorous of off-road monsters sporting more than three feet of suspension travel and well over 1000 horsepower mingle with vintage race cars that make less than 100 horsepower and have as little as 8 inches of travel. They are as far apart as possible when it comes to technology, but both provide incredible thrills. Mark Post’s famous “Black Diamond” Trophy Truck has the most advanced drivetrain components available while participants in the safari class were happy to have the latest in lightweight beach chairs and a new straw hat.
Mark Post and his teammates like Ed Herbst and our Grand Marshal Lightning Larry Ragland have well over 100 years in combined racing experience. Ed called the Mexican 1000 “ten thousand smiles in one thousand miles.” He knows this well. We will see if they have what it takes to beat defending overall champion Steve Menzies who is racing with Sean Berriman, Jesse Jones, Todd Tenbroek, Willie Valdez JR, and Son Bryce. Talk about combined experience. Bryce loves the Mexican 1000 because he can have a good time with his Father while they reverse roles. Steve can drive, and Bryce can follow in the helicopter. During an interview on NORRA TV, the live feed show, Bryce shared some of the strategies they developed last year. This time they brought more than one fishing pole to use on the trip home.
That’s not all we learned; Rich Minga probably delivered the quote of the day when talking about driving international man of mystery Mack Johnson’s 1971 Sandwinder single-seat buggy. He said driving such a limited car is like a first date, you just hold hands at first. Mack is driving the 1972 Funco SS1 with Bryant Blakemore. Both of Mack’s cars and many others were on display at the Classic Car Coral located at the end of the entrance of Tech & Contingency, to the right of the Yokohama corner. It’s so cool to see these cars on display and still being raced today. Jon Steinhilber and Joe Lowery can only dream about driving a purpose-built race car like that as they pilot their 1965 Meyers Manx down the peninsula; one of several Meyers Manx that were participating. Meyers Manx sponsored the Transpeninsular Cerveza Clara beer this year and gave everyone a first glimpse of both their new digitally remastered car and the 2.0 EV prototype they are developing.
Speaking of developing, there were plenty of new friendships in the making as everyone mingled at contingency; soon they will be one of the family. NORRA has family by blood, and family by choice. Family by blood includes many teams who carry on the legacy throughout several generations. Sean Barber and Son Owen are first-time competitors in their 1976 IH Scout Terra and then there are families like the Herbst’s, the McMillin’s, and the Wilson’s who have been competing off-road for decades.
Many of the fans in attendance remember certain vehicles that compete in NORRA over many years. Despite being painted in different colors or if they are driven by new owners, some instantly recognize a car from the past due to the unique hand-built construction of these cars. Boyd Jaynes’ Caballo Del Diablo has shown up in many different paint schemes over the years, but the long string of peninsula decals on the side of his Bronco commemorating his winning performances makes it unmistakable.
New this year is a special Ironman award for anyone who finishes both the Sonora Rally and the NORRA Mexican 1000. They will have to go directly from the Sonora rally to the Mexican 1000. Those in contention for the award are Sara Price: Stock Turbo UTV, Mike Johnson: Moto, Matthew Glade: Moto, and Matt Sutherland: Moto. Everyone will be rooting for these incredible racers as they set the bar for endurance and grit.
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-1970s.