PHOTOS: BINK DESIGNS / GETSOME PHOTO
AGUA DULCE, CALIF. – Day three of racing at the Yokohama NORRA Mexican 1000 Presented By Meyers Manx started out fast and ended with a bang for some. In the morning the roads were perfect for running wide open. The closer they got to Loreto, the rockier it became. This was the longest day of the rally and a real test for everyone’s stamina. Just when the anticipation of finishing started to seep into the mind, the challenge increased. A flat tire or worse was a real concern. Flat tires are a fact of life in off road racing. It’s not always driver error as they say. The tires, the wheels, the suspension, the transmission, the engine; every moving part is constantly being tortured. Since the tires are in contact with the ground, they take the worst of it. That’s why just finishing a race is so sweet; the odds are always against you. One of the teams that won’t make it all the way is the number 821 truck of Richard Rasmussen, Patrick Bell and Libor Janicek. “Another amazing race, thank you guys!! We have retired from the race and are going fishing. Richard Rasmussen.” Their race is over, but they are still in Baja!
The Menzies team had another flawless day up front, but that shows what modern technology can provide. Trophy Trucks are designed to gobble up terrain at high speeds; it’s what they do. Bryce took the truck off the line and then handed it off to Steve in Vizcaino. They admitted to having a slight issue, but dealt with it quickly and went on to finish first. Bryce posted to social media that “Dad did it again! P1 from Bay of LA to Loreto! It was the longest day of the rally at 400 miles so I jumped in and took it to the first highway section. I can’t explain to you how much joy it brings me to see him having the time of his life and driving really good!”
The Menzies are only one of many family based teams that compete in NORRA events. The McMillins, (Jessica drove the truck all day today), the D’Amicos, the Barbers, the Wagstaffs, the Van Leeuwardens, the Wilsons; I could go on and on; they all love to compete together. One of the family based teams that fell prey to the rocks near Loreto was the number 178 Bunderson Class 1 Buggy of Pat, James and Jordan Dean. They suffered a flat tire in the closing miles of the race after finishing second to Menzies during the first stage. The wheel didn’t seat right after the change so it then came off while back underway. This damaged the rotor and necessitated a trail fix so they could limp to the finish line. They finished 37th in stage two and dropped from second in the overall to third and from first to second in their class behind Dave Mason Jr. Small problems can become big problems but it’s never over until the final checkered flag. They recovered nicely and are still in the hunt; maybe even for the overall; you never know.
One team doing well that is a big part of the NORRA family is the El Martillo number 153 of Matt Campbell. All the while they are travelling down the peninsula, they are heading home. Based in Cabo, they love racing in their own back yard. They are currently running in fourth place overall and third in the hotly contested Evolution Unlimited Buggy class with Dave Mason and the Dean’s. They too look very strong. Since we seem to be talking about family, sitting in fifth and sixth place overall are Wayne and Kristen Matlock. They are both tearing it up in their Polaris RZR Pro R UTV’s. The NORRA rally format works very well for teams who can run consistently fast and smart and that’s what the Matlocks do.
Sitting in seventh place overall is, well, another family race team. Terry and Adam Householder are in the top ten and also leading the Evolution 6100 truck class now. Craig McCarthy is in eighth overall and second in Evolution Unlimited Truck behind the Menzies. Ninth and tenth overall are held by a pair of Vintage Era cars. Every year we see such an amazing battle between the vintage class 5 unlimited cars. The competition between each other in this class typically launches them into the top overall standings. Their top speed is just over 100 miles per hour and they are dicing with trucks and buggies who can maintain 130 miles per hour or more. Class 5 VW’s have such a rich history in off road racing; it’s amazing what the little VW beetle has become. Talk about honoring the past.
There was some confusion over the bike standings in the day two report. As I surmised Mike Johnson had taken the overall lead away from Matt Sutherland but there was no time card turned in so it was showing him as retired from the race. Mike is one of our Ultimate Ironman competitors who also ran in the Sonora Rally. He was a last-minute entry so his details were not entered into the computer. I inquired with the photographers as to what bike he was riding and they didn’t know. That’s because Mike is riding a brand new factory race bike from China. It’s from Kove which is pronounced Cove-A. The designer of the bike is a former motocross racer who wanted to develop an inexpensive bike that would draw more people to the sport. It’s designed solely for rally racing so it comes with the tower and readers already installed. Mike does not have a strong social media presence so he’s not easy to find online, but those who compete know he’s fast and smart. On day three Matt Sutherland chased him down and re-took the overall lead. We asked Matt how his race was going.
“The race so far has been great,” said Matt. “All the NORRA staff were really helpful getting me through tech as I’d come straight from the Sonora Rally. Day 1 was a pleasant surprise with some tricky navigation early that caught me off guard. Although it was tricky navigation, I loved every minute of piecing together the puzzle. The second stage of day 1 was pretty physical as we went through the washes of San Felipe. The plan through there was to back it off and just stay consistent and it paid off. Day 2 started with more tricky navigation also. It usually takes me a bit to get warmed up so I lost 8 minutes to Mike Johnson in that section looking for hidden waypoints. Stage two I came to life and got past mike and had an amazing run down the coast and over the mountains. The course through there is way too much fun. Once I hit the coast things went a little sideways as my Stella equipment malfunctioned so I lost a lot of time. The organization was great in getting me time back for that issue. Stage two had everything and was probably one of the funnest rally stages I’ve ridden. Day 3 I started in 4th due to the Stella issues on day 2, but there’s something about chasing down other riders that gets me fired up. Within the first 130 kms I’d passed everyone and was in Mike’s dust. From there I got in the groove and put the hammer down letting the rally bike do its thing while I held on for dear life. I was able to put some good times in so I’m very happy with the results. Two days to go and I’m sure there are some interesting things to come and I can’t wait. It’ll be a shame to end the race in 2 days. I’d like to go another week. NORRA really is the funnest race on the planet! You guys make it too fun. Matt Glade & I were just talking about how nice it is to be racing NORRA compared to what we had last week. This event will be huge for bikes in coming years. NORRA just needs to promote the bike side of things a little more on social media to get people aware that it’s a legit rally now.”
Speaking of Matthew Glade, he had a scare at the Sonora rally and it’s amazing he is here racing too. “My Sonora Rally took a turn on stage 4, when I and others developed severe heat stroke in the dunes. I got great medical care and was able to finish Sonora the following day, still ending up 3rd. It’s been very hard recovering from that while also racing the Mexican1000 (I’m sure other competitors have noticed me sleeping on the ground next to my bike at start lines, trying to maximize my rest), but IV fluids from the NORRA medical team and lots of support and care from the amazing crew at Baja Bound have kept me going, and I’m now feeling on the mend. The riding this year has been excellent; I’m particularly enjoying how green parts of the desert are. Spectators have been out in force and stopping on the course to talk to kids is truly one of my favorite parts of racing in Mexico. We’re so lucky to get to race in this special place.”
Cade Smith is sitting in third place overall. “Today started really well, I got on the bike in San Ignacio, and I was third of the line for stage 2,” said Cade. “The first half was pretty easy navigation and high speed so I just held the throttle on and got through it. The second half we all had to be on our toes as it was high speed but very rocky so you had to be very focused. The best part of the day was beer and tacos at the finish. Great riding and great fun!”
Jim Pearson is fourth overall and Ben Shuckburgh rounds out the top 5. Ben is leading the Vintage Open class. “It’s fantastic to be back in Baja with NORRA for my 5th Mexican 1000,” says Ben. “I’m riding with Neil Hawker and it’s his first time in Baja; he’s loving it. We’ve had a mixed bag of results; a stage win and some top 3’s but also a few dumb mistakes on navigation that cost us time. This is where the race gets so fun, down in Baja Sur. One more big day and then hopefully the cruise to the finish.”
Julie Farr-Gay has become our safari class reporter in the field. She’s getting a great Baja experience every day. “The #UnRulicon is running like a champ after her battery change,” says Julie. “Putting the King Shocks to work between San Ignacio and San Juanico (Scorpion Bay), big thanks to Bobby and Karl at Motorsports Solo for the overhaul of the 4 bent shock shafts! We hauled hay down the highway to San Ignacio in Rapido Safari group. It cost us a beer to get through the military checkpoint, fueled up at the Pemex and enjoyed walking around the mission and watching the bikes go through their check point at the square. What an amazing backdrop! It was finally our turn and we headed off the pavement to San Juanico; catching air on a few whoops and avoiding the many wash outs, ruts and dips with the help of LeadNav. After more dirt miles full of smiles, I inadvertently tried to run over a rock half as tall as me. We’ll count this a rock win until getting across the Loreto finish and having the FabSchool work their magic and get me literally straightened out and ready for the trails tomorrow!”
Everyone knows that tomorrow will have plenty more in store for everyone at the Yokohama NORRA Mexican 1000 Presented By Meyers Manx. The “Happiest Race On Earth.”