April 30, 2024

Day Three Begins the Long Journey South at the NORRA Mexican 1000

After two full days of fun and festivities at the Bilstein Technical inspection for the 2024 NORRA Mexican 1000, it’s time to start racing. Competitors who thought it was going to be easy got a harsh wakeup call as the day’s agenda included two special stages that would test their navigation skills and abilities to dodge obstacles. Coming out of Ensenada the course was a twisty labyrinth of trails through the trees that required countless split second decisions on which way to go. Thankfully a strong breeze was blowing some of the dust away, but not enough to take it out of the mix. The bond between driver and navigator had to be reached quickly.

For the bikes, they are both the same person. Several got off track and for most thankfully, it was short lived. Matt Sutherland showed his prowess as a back to back winner and established the lead. He was chased by Alex Smith who was also racing in the Pro Rally class. Smith said he got off course, but quickly recovered. Smith took the first special stage, Sutherland the second. At the finish Smith trailed Sutherland by only two tenths of a second. It doesn’t get any tighter than that. Larry Engwall was third fastest racing in the 60+ class. Fourth overall Was Alex Ritz in Amateur Rally and another Amateur Rally class racer Shane Wallack rounded out the top five. The top two Pros have an hour on the rest of the field so far, but it’s a long ways down the peninsula. Being an hour down is still in striking distance when you’re racing for six days.

First off the line for the 4 wheeled racers was also a back to back winner Steve Menzies. Steve had to attend a meeting so he put rock solid Jesse ones in the driver’s seat. Jones brought the truck into San Felipe without a scratch as expected. He knows the game here and was just cruising along without putting the team in any Jeopardy. Special stage one belonged to the Larry’s. Larry Ragland put in the best time with Larry Roeseler about six minutes behind. Then it was Jones followed by Dave Mason. This is going to be an incredible race for the overall win this year as the talent assembled is simply incredible. During stage two Ragland maintained his position with a second victory while those trailing bounced around. Jesse Jones picked up the pace and took the second spot. Dave Mason was third and Roeseler fourth. That’s how they would finish in the overall for day one. We all knew that Ragland would be fast in his newly restored “Arnold” truck, but few thought he would be sitting in front racing his historic era truck after day one. He’s leading a whole gaggle of Evolution Unlimited Era trucks and buggies.

Besides Larry in first and Mark Post in the ninth spot, the top ten is dominated by the newer vehicles. The eleventh place overall may seem shocking, but not to those who have been following NORRA for a while. Hap Kellogg just outside the leaders in his Vintage Class 5 car. Who would have thought that the venerable unlimited VW based car that’s been around forever would be so fast still after many years?

Twelfth through fifteenth places were the fastest Evolution Pro 2000 UTV’s and Class 10 class cars. Justin Lambert and his Son Jaxx were trading seats back and forth on each special stage and if you watched the NORRA live feed you would have seen from their in-car footage that they were flying. They were the top UTV at the finish. They were followed by Wayne Matlock, Nick McPhee and then Eric Duran in the 10 car. It always seems to be a debate about who is faster, the UTV’s, 10 cars or 6100 trucks. Today, for the most part, it was the UTV’s and a 10 car. Five 6100 trucks all finished in a train that went from the sixteenth spot to the 20th. In order they were Zack Langley, Derek Hunter, Matt Cullen, Chip Griffith and Matthew Legg. Joe Black beat them all finishing sixth place overall. Tell me the 6100 class isn’t going to be interesting in the coming stages. Day one was tight and technical. As they head further south it will open up and they will be able to stretch their legs a little bit. We’ll see if the leaders in the Pro 2000 class can stay ahead of them.

Speaking of the tight and technical nature of today’s stages; many vehicles showed up with some organic plumage at the finish line in San Felipe. If you zigged instead of zagged just one time there were consequences. It’s just a matter of fact that most of the time the contact takes place on the co-driver’s side of the car. It’s not intentional, it’s just a subliminal thing that when a driver is squeezing past an obstacle they tend to favor the side of the car closest to them. Baja shows no favoritism to anyone. One such driver who clipped a bush was our boss Robby Gordon. Unfortunately for Robby it was a cholla. The cholla is called the jumping cactus because it seems to jump on people. The sharp spikes stick in you like a fish hook and they don’t come out easily. It must have been miserable for Robby, but it was mostly on his side of the car. He took one for his co-driver today.

Some of the class leaders include Bobby Patton (with Rob Mac) in Evolution Heavy Metal, Kyle Vestermark in Evolution Open UTV, Randy Minnier in Evolution Prerun Buggies, Andrew McLaughlin in Evolution Ultra4, Clint Tasset in Evolution Production Turbo UTV, Seth Egge in Evolution Production N/A UTV, Brian Coats in Vintage 4-cyl Buggies (just 29 seconds over Bob Howle), Jay Bills in Vintage Open Buggies, Craig Christy driving the suburban in Vintage Open Truck w/4x4 and Dave Sykes in Vintage Open Trucks. Our Grand Marshals Wilson Motorsports are leading in Challenger buggies. Chris Greenwood leads Legend 4x4s and Rich Minga in Legend Cars. Boyd Jaynes is the leader in Pioneer 4x4s; again! Jon Steinhilber is in the number one spot in Pioneer Buggies in his Meyers Manx. Chris Nissley has his Jeep Cherokee out front in Vintage 6-CYL Trucks. Mario Rojas is out front in Vintage Class 11. Michael Tuba in Vintage Open Truck with Rear Leafs and Jeff Gamroth is the lead Porsche in Vintage Stock Production Cars.

Day one of racing left everyone with big smiles and even more anticipation for the days ahead. There are plenty of surprises to come so don’t miss any of the action on the NORRA live feed found on YouTube and Facebook. After experiencing the Mexican 1000 just once, you too will be hooked. Everything you need to know about the Mexican 1000 and NORRA 500 can be found at www.norra.com Go to the site and find out for yourself why NORRA has exploded in popularity. You can experience the same wonder and sense of achievement those pioneering thrill seekers sought in 1967 when you join NORRA in Baja. NORRA events honor the past, while forging the future. Don’t miss out on the fun and action.


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