NORRA Mexican earaiza

Let’s head southwest; The NORRA Mexican 1000 journey. [photo story]

When you have the opportunity to race, or in my case, chase the NORRA Mexican 1000 you better take it.  Because this race more than a race is a journey, a journey that shows you the best that Baja Peninsula has to offer and if you let it embrace you, it can be life-changing.

Mike Pearlman, Eliseo Garcia and all the NORRA crew puts together what it is known “the happiest race on Earth” and you know what, like Han Solo in the ‘Force awakens’ says… “It’s true, all of it” (yeah, save it.)

The Mexican 1000 it’s a celebration for our Baja culture taking a journey by the very places and people that shaped Off-Road racing the way it is now, starting in Ensenada heading all way down to Cabo, 1 peninsula, 6 cities, over 1200 miles and millions stories later, here I am back, not with millions of stories but the ones captured with my camera.

This won’t be the usual racing coverage stuff, it gets real, more personal in the same way NORRA is all about, hope you like it.

Ensenada ~ San Felipe
214 miles

NORRA Mexican earaizaSuddenly, we’re back in time. The Original Stroppe rig alongside the original Big Oly and their Bronco cousins in a celebration of the off-road legacy.

NORRA Mexican earaizaI speak as a local when I say Ensenada is somewhat stuck in time, and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

NORRA Mexican earaiza

Let’s head southwest as southwest go.

And then once again, it’s time to race, both old and new, legends and rising stars sharing the race track.

For us (the media guys) the chase begins and the hard drives start to get filled with footage and moments we freeze in time.

NORRA Mexican earaiza

Special leg 2: Diablo’s Lake to San Felipe timing gate. In the background, the Sierra de San Pedro Martir, with the highest peak of Baja, the Picacho del Diablo with 3100 meters above sea level.

NORRA Mexican earaiza
Diablo’s dry lake bed, as hellish as it is beautiful.

Then we reached San Felipe, and The Safari Watchmen.

San Felipe ~ Bahia de Los Angeles
223 miles (438 miles total)

NORRA Mexican earaiza

Second day of racing, let’s do this.

NORRA Mexican earaizaIn the shadows, because the sun was too hot.

NORRA Mexican earaizaThere’s something special in a Porsche racing Baja, something that blows your hair off.

NORRA Mexican earaizaLas Delicias just south of Puertecitos, the sand starts to get heavy, we’re just getting started.

Road trip to Bay of LA.

NORRA Mexican earaizaMade it to fight for another day!

NORRA Mexican earaiza

Smiles that will last forever.

NORRA Mexican earaiza

NORRA Mexican earaizaBay of LA is simply too small for the NORRA caravan. This is where the bikes and safari class goes straight to Guerrero Negro while the whole downtown of BOLA becomes the “compound” for the car teams where thousands of small stories are being written, all at once.

NORRA Mexican earaizaThis is Sol Saltzman and he was one of my favorite racers to follow all week, he drives (in boots!) a single-seat ’72 Funco SS1.

You likely will end up camping in Bay of LA, but that’s not a bad thing at all if you’re prepared.

NORRA Mexican earaiza

And night fell and we all rest.

Bahia de Los Angeles ~ Loreto
421 miles (860 miles total)

NORRA Mexican earaizaHalf of rally done and things are starting to get dicey.

NORRA Mexican earaizaFor us, part of the game is to chase-and-find “cool spots” to capture whatever story that unfolds in front of you, ‘silt’ is the key-word in most cases.

We found this spot right before crossing the state line into Baja Sur, it was a matter of time for that silt to take its first victim.

NORRA Mexican earaizaAnd it did…

NORRA Mexican earaiza… and did…

… and did several times more.

NORRA Mexican earaizaNORRA Mexican earaizaNORRA Mexican earaiza NORRA Mexican earaiza

Silt beds are media’s best friend and racer’s worst enemy. I love silt.

NORRA Mexican earaizaMoving on, the desert starts to change into something out of an alien movie.

NORRA Mexican earaiza

NORRA Mexican earaizaSide-street pit stop.

NORRA Mexican earaizaThe mandatory San Ignacio postal card photo. If you have been in San Ignacio, you know that the place is an oasis in both literal and figuratively speaking.

NORRA Mexican earaizaSan Ignacio entrance street, imagine this in the middle of the desert, lovely.

NORRA Mexican earaizaIn San Ignacio there’s a checkpoint that give us time for some portraits…

NORRA Mexican earaiza… and cigarettes.

NORRA Mexican earaizaThank you San Ignacio, let’s continue our journey.

Loreto ~ La Paz
291 miles (1151 miles total)

NORRA Mexican earaizaLoreto and its surroundings are some of the most beautiful places that Baja has to offer.

NORRA Mexican earaizaLoreto malecon, start of activities for day 3 of the NORRA rally.

Marcus and Philip Benham came all way from Italy along with their ’78 Vespa’s, the idea is to race in style. “For those happy souls that enjoy a drink with their friends, reached a full filling joy and always maintain their chivalry” – Vespa #4

NORRA Mexican earaiza

Lyle Tonelli and his 3-wheeler deathwish.

Couple more frames before start chasing dirt.

NORRA Mexican earaizaI was able to capture the safari class as they leave Loreto. Again they took a different racetrack to meet us in La Paz that night.

NORRA Mexican earaizaAlways expect live cattle on racecourse at all times, also on the highway chasing. Expect the unexpected.

NORRA Mexican earaizaAfter driving miles looking for our next shooting spot, we had to settle for a long stretch with a small puddle of silt, not my favorite place to shot but in this cases we just need to believe…

NORRA Mexican earaiza

Then it happens, my favorite racing car (besides Big Oly and all other vintage jewels) this ’89 Porsche 964 of Jeff Gamroth who ran out of fuel right in front of us, right in the middle of nowhere. Luckily for them we were prepared and gave them 10 gallons of fuel, enough to make it to their next pit stop. Not sure who was more stoked, they for getting out of trouble or us for helping them and be part of their journey (and no, we didn’t accept their money).

NORRA Mexican earaizaBy the nature of this day special stages, we were only able to catch them once during the day, then we headed to La Paz.

La Paz ~ San Jose del Cabo
143 miles (1295 miles total)

We reached our destination, not without catching a glimpse of Baja postals first, off-road museums with the best chorizo-machaca burritos (Cheko’s just south of La Paz, that’s the spot) and views that you fell in love with instantly.

NORRA Mexican earaizaOnce we reached the finish line, the smiles never stopped…

NORRA Mexican earaizaBruised but not dead, Big Oly crosses the finish line probably one last time.

NORRA Mexican earaizaThe Vespa’s made it all way to the finish line in Cabo, this is why NORRA’s special.

I don’t know who was the craziest at this race, the Vespa’s, the 3-wheeler…

… or #535 Adam Sheard who took the challenge in a ’66 Triumph TR6. When he was asked if he’s coming back next year and he said “yes but with a different bike!” We can only imagine how rough those rides went.

NORRA Mexican earaizaThen the big names started to show up, young off-road rising star, Max Gordon driving with Ryan Arciero.

NORRA Mexican earaizaWhen you’re an off-road legend like Arciero, you get smoking thumbs up.

The UTV family is stoked as they can only be.

One by one every finisher had their moment on the podium, all with their own celebrations and feelings that translates into the frames.

Spoils of racing.

NORRA Mexican earaizaThe only team made up entirely of women, #1356 leaded by Nancy Koval in their ’73 Meyers Manx made it all way to the finish line while raised breast cancer awareness, incredible job ladies.

NORRA Mexican earaizaThe finish line was a full rollercoaster of emotions.

NORRA Mexican earaiza4-time Baja 1000 winner, Mark Stahl made one last race just to announce his retirement of racing, hats off for Mr. Stall.

NORRA Mexican earaiza

After a bad luck streak during the last NORRA editions, El Caballo del Diablo takes back their natural-habitat on the top spot of the podium box!

The Safari style.

No better time to celebrate with tequila…

… or Mexican chips with lot’s of salsa.

SCORE international Godfather Mr. Sal Fish himself had the opportunity to enjoy his own legacy, never-once stop smiling.

Families, friends, team members… People together celebrating life, the NORRA way.

NORRA Mexican earaizaThis is not for bragging rights like the “real” Baja 1000 or any other of the famous races; but to celebrate who we are as desert racers and the opportunity we have to enjoy paradise while we write our own adventure, because NORRA is about lessons…

NORRA Mexican earaizaLessons of life itself. Thank you NORRA for been awesome.

NORRA Mexican earaizaPeace.
Photography and words by yours, truly.

Ernesto Araiza

Being born right in the heart of Off-Road Racing, Ernesto always had a dream to be an Off-Road Racer. After finish college he ditched his engineer career to chase the dream of action photographer. It didn't took long to get spotted by MadMedia where he still works. In less than 5 years after 'going pro' he reached some of the most important peaks in his life working for several international brands and events like the Rally Dakar. After 30 years of dreaming, he still have one goal in mind, to keep his face full of dust.