PHOTOS: BINK DESIGNS / GETSOME PHOTO / ROBERT LAWRENCE
AGUA DULCE, CALIF. – The Yokohama NORRA Mexican 1000 presented By Meyers Manx was cooking on day two of racing and we aren’t talking about the weather. The racers stepped it up a notch with varied results. For some it was a great day of incredible racing that saw them climb in the standings. For others it was catastrophic. Thankfully, nobody was injured other than some broken parts and bruised egos.
The motos travelled from San Felipe to Guerrero Negro, a distance of 460.1 kilometers or nearly 286 miles. Matt Sutherland was leading going into stage one, but it’s unclear as to the actual results from day 2. We know the bikes are all in a handlebar to handlebar battle. Baja is no joke. It’s remote and sometimes communication breaks down as it has in this case. No timing card was turned in on Mike Johnson who was running second place overall, but he is still showing on the tracker. It’s not my habit to speculate, but there is a possibility that he has taken the lead over Matt Sutherland, but that’s all a guess. We will have things sorted out by the end of stage 3. In the very beginning, even before NORRA created sanctioned off road racing in Baja, the riders would send a telegram from the station in Tijuana, then another from LaPaz when they finished. It was the only way to verify their times. Technology has advanced a lot since then but some things remain the same in Baja; that’s what makes it so special. We will get everyone caught up on the bikes in the next report.
We had some retirements in the 4 wheeled classes with the most stunning being the Black Diamond of Mark Post. Post was driving when they dropped a wheel into a washout on the side of the road and rolled the truck. It tore up the right front suspension which might have caused the wreck. Everyone was OK which held true for other incidents on day 2. Another casualty was Greg DiStefano. He went wide in a turn and also landed on his lid. Luckily a fan was close by to help get the truck back on the wheels and he was able to finish. He is an hour and a half behind Evolution Unlimited Truck and overall race leader Steve Menzies, but anything can happen and day 2 shows that.
The number 807 truck of Mark van Leeuwarden, Robert Lawrence and Ben Van leewarden got stuck in the deep sand while avoiding another competitor who was also stuck “It was a very tough day today,” says Lawrence. “On the first stage we got buried in sand when we stopped before a blind turn to avoid hitting another stuck competitor. It was a bad spot with nowhere to go other than slamming on the brakes. Later we had problems with the carb hanging open and no brakes. We crawled carefully to the highway. We will be back tomorrow at 100%.” The number 63 Alumicraft 2 seat pre runner of Guy Evans, Jeff Callaghan and Enrique Gutierrez ended up on its side but was righted by a fellow competitor and continued. Also reportedly rolled was the 1965 Ford “Baja” Ranchero of Allen Repashy and Rick Snell. Trevor Glidden was out with a broken axle, Hernquist lost an engine, Darrin Necessary had clutch problems and Perry McNeil had an issue with the transfer case on the 6 door Ford.
Baja is not for the weak, but for those who didn’t suffer from mechanical issues the course was another good one with twists, turns, jumps, and fast straightaways. After making it through the deep sands outside San Felipe it travelled through more spectacular scenery on the way down to Bahia De Los Angeles. The cactus forest sections are out of this world when it comes to beauty but for those who were on a mission there was no time for sightseeing. Steve Menzies had another flawless day winning stage one and finishing stage two in 2nd. NORRA 500 winner Dave Mason Jr. swapped positions with Menzies. He was second in stage one and the winner of stage two. He started 20th and his results bumped him up into 3rd place overall. The Dean boys charged up to 2nd place overall in their Valley Performance, South Point Hotel and Casino Bunderson Buggy. They are only 9 minutes and 55 seconds behind Menzies on time and lead the Evolution Unlimited Buggy class over Dave Mason.
Having a great run were both Matlock racing Polaris RZR Pro R UTV’s. Wayne ran fast enough to put him in 4th place overall. Kristen clawed her way up five spots to take 10th overall. The UTV’s were very fast in the twisty sections of the course. Thomas Purcell was also very fast and sits in 6th place overall. The Evolution Era cars are dominating the overall standings but Hap Kellogg is still hanging onto 9th place overall in his Vintage Era Unlimited class 5 VW. Antonio Contreras continues to be the Evolution 6100 class leader and Eli Yee Jr leads the highly competitive Evolution Class 10. The entire class is only seconds apart from each other. In the Evolution Prerun Trucks class Pat Sims leads Jamie Groves, Scott Ulrich and Travis Zbornik.
The Safari classes were not immune to mechanical issues either. They spent the night in Guerrero Negro. “Mama Espinosa’s was such a cool location to bring all Safari participants together,” says Julie Farr-Gay. “We were welcomed as we entered under the NORRA arch and greeted with an ice cold beer from Transpeninsular Brewing. We enjoyed sharing stories fireside, a tasty dinner and scored an awesome room next door at Baja Cactus. Oscar even shared his room dedicated to racing memorabilia through the years. We woke up early and enjoyed a hot shower, something that can be elusive in Baja. Then a quick burrito breakfast at Mama’s before heading south on Hwy 1 with Rapido Safari. After the scenic drive and gassing in Cataviña, we looked forward to heading across the desert course next to Chapala. Unfortunately, a battery issue took us down just before the dirt. After getting UnRulicon started again, we took the pavement into Guerrero Negro and found a replacement battery. All looks good for the next leg to Loreto.”
Day 2 was grueling for the participants but most teams are settling into a rhythm that they hope takes them all the way to the finish line in San Jose del Cabo. Day three will see everyone come together in Loreto. The bikes will do 554.90 kilometers (about 345 miles) and the 4 wheeled classes will have their longest day running 400 miles. Stay tuned for more action and don’t forget to tune into NORRA TV for live broadcasts from the course.