May 2, 2024

NORRA Racers Hit Rocky Roads on Race Day 4 of the Mexican 1000

Just when the stresses and strains of racing day after day at the NORRA Mexican 1000 start to accumulate, the terrain takes a turn from sand and silt to gnarly rocks and even a splash of water. Thankfully the roads have opened up a little compared to the ultra-narrow gauntlet of cacti the competitors saw in the previous stage, but the hazards have only increased. The rocks are even less forgiving and the vehicles are showing the signs of the constant abuse. Despite the rocks, the bigger faster trucks and buggies had a chance to stretch their legs and use some of their horsepower and high tech suspension componentry. Steve Menzies’ Mason all-wheel drive truck was clocked at 128 miles per hour. Many others were also eclipsing triple digit speeds. For the more limited vehicles, it was nervous time as the rough conditions took a toll on man, woman and machine.

Randy Ludwig broke a steering shaft on his Bronco. The crew came out to help with the trailer then discovered they also broke a leaf spring on the trailer. The veterans quickly repaired the trailer and the truck and are back in the fight. Austin “Fish” Farner demonstrated how perilous off road racing can be when he went just a little wide in a turn and clipped a yucca tree on the edge of the course. Most of the front suspension took the hard hit, but the upper eye on his shock absorber broke off in the impact. They got it fixed overnight and also continued.

We got an update from the Fab School Repair Team’s Victor Agnon who remarked “It's been hectic through the first 4 days, but we wouldn't have it any other way. The Fab School Repair Team is doing everything we can to keep all of NORRA's teams racing each day. Through the first 4 days I would say we have worked on at least 30, if not more cars during that time. We have burned a lot of material and gas, but we are going to keep on working and helping everyone get to the finish line.” The Fab School class 5 car of Hap Kellogg is currently leading the Vintage class 5 standings. The 5 cars are very fast and the class is super competitive with heavy hitters like the Belk Brothers, Bill Hernquist, Ben Swift and other experienced racers all competing.

The Motorcycle classes began the first leg of their marathon stage today. They will go from San Ignacio to San Juanico where their crews will not be able to service the bikes. The next day they will go from San Juanico all the way to La Paz. The riders will have a chance to do work on their bikes if needed after they take the green flag at the start of tomorrow’s stage, but that will count against their time. On the stage from San Ignacio to San Juanico Leader Matt Sutherland on a KTM 450 was able to eke out a couple more minutes on second overall Alexander Smith on his Ducati DesertX, but the two are still locked into a tight battle for the overall and Pro Rally class win. Third place in the Pro Rally class Joel Dewitt is in ninth place overall. The Amateur Rally class riders are doing very well. Leader Alex Ritz is third overall followed by Shane Wallack who runs seventh overall and Justin Dawes in eighth overall riding his Suzuki V-strom 800de. Also running in the top ten overall are Larry Engwall, William St. Laurent, Eric Simensen and Simon Edwards.

The four-wheeled overall battle has The Menzies team, Butch Jensen’s Alumicraft car driven by Pat Dean and Larry Roeseler in the 48 Geiser truck all swapping positions based on elapsed times. Dave Mason, Larry Ragland, Joe Black (who leads the Evolution 6100 class), Maxime Losier and Scott Bailey are all right on their heels. Don’t forget Wayne Matlock who is leading the UTV’s and running ninth overall. Matlock has his hands full with Justin Lambert, Eric Duran and Thomas Purcell who are not slowing down a bit.

The Evolution Heavy Metal class has seen a lot of attrition but Brad and Roger Lovell have emerged as the ones to beat in their Bronco DR race truck. The Lovell brothers have the highly capable Jimco team of Bobby Patton, Rob MacCachren and Barry Karakas chasing them. They have three seats in the Fastball truck so in affect they have an additional navigator to keep them on course. Norra makes a point to send competitors in the most remote areas possible so they get a taste of what the original NORRA Mexican 100 racers experienced back in the 1960’s when they created the first sanctioned off road races in Baja.

Bobby, Rob and Barry are all accomplished drivers. They are taking turns in the driver’s seat and collaborating on the navigation. Navigating is something new for the goat Rob Mac. He commented on how much the roads have changed on one of the sections. “It used to be a smooth graded road ten years ago when I came through there last, but it was rough,” Rob said. What a treat it must be to ride with Rob Mac behind the wheel. Apparently Karakas feels pretty safe riding in the back seat with either Rob or Bobby driving as they were giving him a hard time for falling asleep during a stage.

We saw a strong run by the Dean boys who are driving Jimmy Smith’s Ultra Wheels car. They finished sixth in the stage. Father Pat Dean is driver of record, but he’s in Butch Jensen’s car. That leaves the rest of the Dean bunch to bring the car home with Grandpa Butch’s name on the door. How’s this for a potent team; they have James Dean, Brother Jordan Dean, Shane Robinson, Matt Brady and Nick May on the team. I’m expecting them to take an overall win in the near future. Just think where they would be with Pat who is running in the top three at their disposal.

Several top teams have been beaten by the harsh realities that Baja holds in store. The Black diamond truck of Mark Post suffered an unfortunate crash in the dust and is out of the race. The same goes for Kevin Adler and his team. You can add Matthew Travis to the list of retirements as his 1975 Honda MR175 Elsinore suffered mechanical failure of some sort. Everyone was rooting for Matthew. The Mexican 1000 has lots of fun and adventure, but it’s also an incredibly demanding race that takes toughness, skill and a little luck. Let’s wish everyone good luck on tomorrow’s stage.

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 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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