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May 26, 2020
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LIVING THE DREAM!
Baja Veteran Mark Stahl’s Take On The NORRA SAVVY Safari Expedition
Agua Dulce, CALIF. – Mark Stahl is a long time Baja traveler, and NORRA Mexican 1000 winner. He has won the Legend Era Truck class at the Mexican 1000, 5 years in a row. He also won the Baja 1000 in 1978 driving the entire way solo. Overcoming incredibly harsh conditions during the race earned him a prestigious victory, but also a coveted ironman award. He will be back on the starting line to defend his winning streak again this fall when the Yokohama NORRA Mexican 1000 returns to the starting line in Ensenada on October 3rd.
When NORRA ran the NORRA 500 last year, it allowed Mark to branch out from his usual race program, and run in the SAVVY Safari class just for fun. The Safari class is not a race; it’s a guided tour of Baja that runs a similar route to the race course. It takes in the spectacular places along the way, but steers clear of the super technical sections meant to test the race cars. You won’t be stuck in the silt beds with a shovel on the SAVVY Safari. Group leader, and racing legend himself, Curt LeDuc will see to that. He knows Baja as well as Mark Stahl does. In fact, Mark was impressed that wherever they went, people recognized Curt right away. Curt’s racing career has spanned decades, and includes desert, and short course racing. He moved from back east to California in order to experience desert racing first hand. He was soon hired by Walker Evans because he had a reputation for being able to fix anything, with whatever he had with him. Curt is also an accomplished truck builder, and father to Todd, and Kyle LeDuc who are both champion drivers. So what did Mark Stahl think about the SAVVY Safari?
“I get asked about the Safari class all the time,” says Mark. “There was a guy who said he had a raptor and he wanted to do whatever fixes it took to do the NORRA Mexican 1000. He wanted to bring his kids with him. And I said, I don't think you need to do any of that stuff. This isn't a class for racing. This is a class to go have fun. You're going go along at a pace that will not tear up your stuff. You should have an FM radio to talk to the other drivers, some drinks, and snacks, and don’t forget your lawn chair. We were out at the NORRA 500 and knew where the leaders were on the course, so we went out by the big jumps outside Ojos and watched the fast cars come through. If you don’t have a tailgate, make sure you bring a chair.”
We asked Mark if he learned anything new being so familiar with Baja.
“Yes, we tried to share all of our experiences with the other people on the trip,” Mark continued. “I'm 68 years old, and when I was a little kid, and I mean a little kid, we used to camp on Rosarito Beach when nothing was there. This probably would have been in the early 50s. We had a house trailer, and during the summer friends, and family would bring their house trailers down there to camp on the beach. My dad would go back to San Diego to work every day and then come home at night. You could cross the border in five minutes. So I've been going down to Baja for 65 years! That's something that I've always liked about the NORRA races; a lot of the routes that uses I've never been on before. The other races use a different, rougher course. NORRA picks a different course that's not going tear your stuff up. We just we went along at a comfortable pace. All five trucks last October, we all hung together because like I said, it wasn't a race; let's just do fun stuff. Curt knows what to do to make sure that the Safari class gets into town at a decent hour so everybody can have dinner, and drinks and enjoy the party that evening; then get to bed, and be ready to do it the next day.”
“One of the best parts of racing NORRA is after the day’s racing is done, and you get to hang out and tell everybody about how fast you were. I finished second overall to Mark McMillin at the Baja 1000 in 1981, and until NORRA I never knew how he beat me. For years, I did not know what happened, and how it all came about. Because of NORRA, I’ve been able to spend time with Mark, and hear all the details about how his race went, and how he beat me. Everyone is hanging out with the guys that I raced against 40 years ago, you're hanging out, and having fun. It’s great to hear all the details. There's nothing like it I know of, that’s for sure. The main thing for me is my blood pressure goes down when I get into Mexico. When I cross that border, I get more relaxed. I’m like, Okay, I’m in for a good time; It's gonna be fun. It's chill time. It’s time to relax and enjoy life down there.”
If you’ve wanted to travel in Baja but never had the right circumstances now is your chance. You won’t find a better or more fun trip to take than to run the SAVVY Safari class at the Yokohama NORRA Mexican 1000. You will travel in a group with a seasoned leader, and have the full support of the NORRA race organization behind you. You will see the most spectacular sights along the way, and enjoy the best food, and drinks ever. The Safari Class participants will run their events on much of the same course but not while the race cars are competing. They will take part in all the same opening festivities, attend Day 1 registration, technical inspection, and the Welcome Fiesta in Ensenada. The best part of each day will be reflecting back on the great experiences you had with fellow participants who run the gamut from regular Joes, to celebrities, Icons, and professional racers. Everyone will be at one of the highlights of the entire event; the finish line celebrations, and the awards ceremony. In the earliest days, competitors would toast their adventure with a shot of tequila in a dusty cantina. Now the awards ceremony is held on the beach with great food, drinks, fun and fanfare. The evening is topped off with a fireworks display over the ocean.
If you would like to take part in the “Happiest Race On Earth!”, you’re in luck! Registration is open now. Details about NORRA, their events, the history of the Mexican 1000, and answers to any questions you may have are all on the official NORRA website found here: www.norra.com NORRA events honor the past, and celebrate the future. You will have amazing experiences, and create memories that will last a lifetime. Make plans to attend today!
### "The Happiest Race On Earth!" ###
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-1970's.
NORRA enjoys corporate partnerships with Yokohama Tire, Method Race Wheels, South Point Hotel & Casino, Bilstein Shock Absorbers, STEEL-IT, RIGID, Multitool USA, Satellite Phone Store.com, Biltwell, Cerveceria Transpeninsular, PCI Race Radios, The Fab School, Schampa, K&N, Baja Bush Pilots, Mag7 Pits, the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame (ORMHOF), B3KREATIV, and many more.