PHOTOS: BINK DESIGNS / GETSOME PHOTO
AGUA DULCE, CALIF. – Day five of racing had to be completed at the Yokohama NORRA Mexican 1000 Presented by Meyers Manx before the biggest celebration of the event could begin. The final day of racing is not ceremonial at the “Happiest Race On Earth.” Participants still had 155 miles of tricky, technical terrain to navigate before they could claim their trophies. The bike racers commented how slippery it was on the pass; the small rocks on hard-packed dirt are like ball bearings. Matt Sutherland was riding with Cade Smith and Neil Hawker who were pushing him to the very end. Sutherland successfully defended his title with a 2nd straight overall win. For Smith and Hawker, it was their first Mexican 1000 and both were hooked. Cade rode with his Father Jason and Neil shared the bike with Ben Shuckburgh; all were winners. Sutherland got the overall and Pro Rally Class win. Cade and Jason took second overall and the Modern Open Class win. Neil and Ben earned the Vintage Open class trophy. Scott Purcell had a mechanical failure last year that took him out. He was back to finish the job this year and took the 50+ Vintage Dudes class win. You don’t stay fast as a rider into your 50’s and 60’s if you don’t have smarts and skills. The 50+ class is the largest of the bike classes.
The final stage brought the total miles travelled to 1,278 for the bikes, 1,294 for the 4 wheeled racers. Like everything with NORRA, you get more than what’s advertised. It’s the Mexican 1000 with an extra 300 miles of fun and adventure thrown in. After most of the bikes finished, weary racers and their crews, safari entrants, and the incredible sweep and recovery teams all made their way to the final checkered flag. They were cheered on by the many fans who lined the course. Each had their tales of adventure from along the way. NORRA participants come from all backgrounds in life, and all ages. Max Gordon is just 14 years old and already a veteran driver. Jim Kirby has been racing off road since 1968 and is 91 years young. He loves NORRA!
Like Matt Sutherland on the bikes, Steve Menzies ran a perfect race in his title defense of last year. Winning is hard, ask anyone. Putting together back to back wins puts you on a whole other level. Congratulations to the Menzies team for their hard work and dedication. Bryce Menzies said repeatedly how much fun he was having with his Dad in interviews over the last week. Their team epitomizes what NORRA is all about; family. Whether it’s by blood, or shared experiences along the way, everyone at NORRA becomes one big family.
Taking second overall and the Evolution Unlimited Buggy class win was the El Martillo team of Matt Campbell, Rodimiro Amaya, Nicolas Ambriz, Jackson Fleck and Roberto Ruiz Cesena. This local Baja Sur team was absolutely flying on the course and having more fun than anyone. They have three seats in their 2013 JIMCO Rally Car and if there were any more they would have been sold out! Not only was their engine singing along the course, so were they in the car. They are big time favorites of the locals and it’s clear why. Everyone is so proud of these long time NORRA regulars. Just wait until they climb onto the awards stage. They will bring down the house. Be sure to tune in live at 6pm PST to the live feed coverage on NORRA’s YouTube channel.
The next two spots in the overall are just amazing. Everyone is familiar with Wayne and Kristen Matlock. They are a family based team who has been racing in Baja for decades. Wayne and Kristen Both raced quads and bikes before switching to UTV’s. It’s difficult enough to take a win, but to have two cars in the top 4 is just incredible. Kristen finished 3rd overall and takes the Evolution Open UTV win and Wayne was right behind in 4th overall and second in the same class. Wayne also finished 4th place overall last year. They have really done an amazing job in their Polaris RZR Pro R UTV’s racing against much more powerful unlimited vehicles. They are both daunted competitors and their love of Baja is endless.
Winning the Evolution Stock Turbo UTV class was Sara Price. Sara has had an incredible few weeks. She won at the Sonora Rally which secured her a spot at the Dakar Rally in 2024, then came directly to the Mexican 1000 where she won again. Obviously her CanAm X3 that is prepped by Alsup Racing Development is an incredible machine, but so is their entire team. Sara ran the Mexican 1000 with a first time navigator Saydiie Gray who is just 16 years old. NORRA has so many accomplished female racers competing; who will win the Mary McGee trophy?
Fifth place overall and the winners of the Evolution 6100 class are Terry and Adam Householder. The Father and Son team are having a great year so far. Adam won the King of the Hammers Desert Challenge to kick off the season and now take a NORRA Mexican 1000 victory as well. Right behind them is another family team; the third generation of Dean’s to hit the dirt. Pat Dean and sons Jordan and James had some problems along the way, but never gave in to their mechanical issues and clawed their way back to sixth place overall. At one time they looked to be a serious challenge to Steve Menzies for the overall. They showed everyone how to keep fighting strong when things don’t go your way. They finished second place behind the El Martillo team in the Evolution Unlimited Buggy class.
The Cops team of Zak Langley took the seventh spot overall and second place in the Evolution 6100 class. Zak has been a part of NORRA for years now and has a huge fan following in Baja. Quietly climbing into eighth place overall is Bill Zemak in the RMR Jackal. The Jackal is an interesting vehicle designed and built by Rhys Millen. The all-wheel drive chassis can be fitted with all kinds of power plants ranging from turbo-charged 4 or 6 cylinder engines to UTV based engines and V8’s. Bill rounds out the podium in the Evolution Unlimited Buggy class. In ninth place overall we have the Vintage Era Class 5 Unlimited car of Mike and Wendy Belk. We’ve had variations of the “Baja Bug” racing with NORRA since 1967. No doubt they are forever linked to Bruce Meyers’ Meyers Manx design that uses a VW pan for the engine and suspension. It’s incredible that after all these decades we have a VW based hybrid vehicle placing in the top ten at the NORRA Mexican 1000. Mike Belk was 13th overall last year and now has cracked the top 10 with his win in the Vintage Class 5 category.
Speaking of last year’s results; Mike Belk finished 13th overall and Richard Ciccanti was right behind in 14th place overall. This year Richard finished right behind Mike again; taking the tenth spot overall in his Evolution 6100 truck. I talked to Richard this morning and he said our Grand Marshal Larry Ragland called to congratulate him this morning. Richard is 74 years of age and doesn’t know how much longer he can keep racing, but is inspired by Larry who is 80. When I told him about John Kirby running the safari class at 91 he said that’s perfect. Now he knows what is possible.
Our congratulations go out to all participants at the 2023 Yokohama NORRA Mexican 1000 Presented by Meyers Manx. Like Ed Herbst said “it’s ten thousand smiles in one thousand miles.” The next thing on the agenda is the celebration of celebrations at the awards ceremony on the beach. There everyone will receive their trophies to commemorate their incredible accomplishments.