The bikes and cars were on separate courses on day 4, but both had another tough day covering nearly 300 total miles. Typical of the Mexican 1000, there were some who dropped down in the standings, some who gained positions, and some who, despite their best efforts, remained locked in a tight battle with their nearest competitor.
This year’s rally is super competitive with narrow time gaps in several classes. In the race for the overall, Cameron Steele had another strong run putting a little time on second overall, Mark Post. They are racing in different categories, but you know Post would like to take the overall and the category win just as much as Steele. Steele’s lead over 2nd place in Evolution Unlimited, Greg DiStefano, is 14 minutes and 10 seconds. That can easily be erased with a flat tire, mechanical issue, or by getting stuck in the silt. There was plenty of silt on day 4.
“Eddie (Maurin) drove the first stage and had no trouble,” said Rory Ward, second driver in Maurin’s former Larry Ragland raced Woodstuff Chaparral Single seater, “I was driving stage 2 when I came upon the number 153 car of Matt Campbell and a truck that were stuck in the silt. There were big elephant trees and cactus on both sides of the course so I had to wait for them to clear. They got un-stuck and I was just getting un-belted to check things out when both the co-drivers, (it’s a 3 seater) came over and told me to stay in the car, they would assist me. They put the MaxTrax boards under my tires and I was able to take off. I lost 15 minutes but have to thank those guys for helping. Getting stuck is a bigger challenge when you are driving a single seater. We had an 18 minute lead on 2nd place Ted Baker but after today he is only seconds behind. The car is running great so hopefully we can gain some time back on day 5. We didn’t want to have to go full bore on the last day but we may have to.” Baker is driving the DirTrix DT2 that Rory restored back to racing form last year. Having the vintage cars out racing in the same tough, Baja conditions that beat modern race vehicles into submission is one of the reasons why the NORRA, Mexican 1000 is so special.
In day 3’s report we stated that PJ Jones and 2nd place in the Evolution Modified UTV group, Bill Whittington, were teammates. We caught up to PJ and were informed that it’s no longer the case. They are both racing on their own teams. Jones is part of the Robby Gordon Arctic Cat team and Whittington is racing a Polaris RZR 1000. When asked if that means they are arch rivals, PJ responded “Absolutely!” “The Arctic Cat we are racing is a new concept,” said PJ, “It has been totally reliable with the only issue being a pinched brake line. We feel real good, but there will be no cruising tomorrow. We think we have the speed to beat him.” The margin between both cars is only 17 seconds!
Some of the most iconic trucks that race in the Mexican 1000 are the vintage Ford Broncos. Whether it is because of the legacy built by Parnelli Jones in Big Oly, the other Stroppe Broncos, or just because they are so darn cool, everyone loves them. You have Andrew Norton and Boyd Jaynes still running in the Pioneer 4x4s class, and the Lovell brothers and Rapido Randy Ludwig in a close battle for the Vintage Short Wheelbase 4×4 victory. We spoke to Brad Lovell on how his race was going. “Roger and I have had a great rally so far,” says Brad, “We got into some deep silt today. It was only half way through the stage and there were trucks stacked up everywhere. We have 4 wheel drive, which is a big advantage, but we stopped to check around for a way through. I walked over to the right and then over to the left hand side before I found a way out. Just as we took off, Ludwig rolled up on us and just followed us through. We lost time checking it out, and he got lucky. We dueled with them the rest of the stage. Day 3 was very long and we were exhausted after the stage. We give the truck a good look every night and since we have been running the Rally for several years, we know what to look for and what spares to bring. We knew we were doing well when we got to the finish and looked around. There weren’t many vintage vehicles there yet. This year it’s been very competitive. I like the Stella for passing but now I find myself watching it so closely in the transition zones so we maintain a steady speed. In previous years we just cruised along and were able to take a break. Now we are 100% focused for every mile. We had a couple cars go past us while we were in the speed zone. We saw them later on the side of the road. I guess that’s Karma.”
The bike race for the overall is neck and neck with two world class motorcycle racers leading the way. Steve Hengeveld has mere seconds over 2nd place Mark Samuels. Hengeveld is riding the classic Honda XR 650R and Samuels is on the latest Honda CRF450X. They worked together to navigate the final stage on day 3 when the GPS crashed, but these two will probably be banging bars as they ride up on the finishing ramp on day 5. 3rd overall and third in the Modern Open group is Thomas Harris on another Honda CRF 450X. 4th overall and leading the Modern Lites group is another accomplished Baja rider Steve Greib. 5th place overall is a man who has earned everyone’s respect. Who would have known that a 50+ rider would be in the top 5 and doing it while his wife rides along. That’s right, Kevin and Michelle Busch are running in 5th place overall! Kevin must be a heck of a rider but you also have to give credit to Michelle. Not many could hang on the back of a bike through some of the toughest terrain in Baja.
The 50th Anniversary of the NORRA Mexican 1000 is still The Happiest Race On Earth, but it has been a tough one so far. Michelle Busch is not the only one that is trying to hang on until the finish line in Cabo!
Be sure to follow the tracking and live feed so you can be a part of the action. You can find the live feed here:www.norra.com/live There will also be daily race reports that include personal quotes from competitors and insider information from people on the ground. The nightly race report, and additional information about NORRA, can be found here: www.norra.com/mexican1000