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2013 Mexican 1000

April 28 - May 1, 2013

I'm still not entirely sure why, but during the summer of 2012 I decided I wanted to participate in the NORRA Mexican 1000 - a 4-day navigational rally that runs down the entire peninsula of Baja, from Mexicali in the north to San Jose del Cabo in the south.

I was a pretty good motorcycle desert racer in my younger days, but that was 30+ years ago. But I've always loved desert riding, and generally I can still keep a pretty good pace riding offroad in the desert. The Mexican 1000, organized by the National Off-Road Racing Association (NORRA), is a tamer version of the infamous Baja 1000. In fact, NORRA was the founding organization that started the Baja 1000 in 1967, although it has been ran by SCORE International for about the last 40 years.

The Mexican 1000 divides the race into sections, that are competed on over 4 days (instead of an all-out non-stop race). There are multiple racing sections each day, called specials, where you are racing as fast as you can (primarily offroad). The specials are timed, and the fastest combined time for all of the specials is the winner. Between the specials, there are usually liaison sections which are typically paved sections to connect the offroad racing special sections. You typically have a time window in which to complete the liaison. If you are either early or late to the checkpoint at the end of the liaison section, then you accrue penalty minutes which are added to your racing time, and can thus affect your overall time and finishing position.

NORRA caters the Mexican 1000 to vintage race vehicles (the types of vehicles that raced the original 1967 version of the Baja 1000). So although much of the course is identical to recent Baja 500 and Baja 1000 race courses, it avoids the most technical sections; it's run over multiple days (meaning no racing at night); it allows you to stay in a hotel each night; and it's just a whole lot of fun!

It sounded to me like a way in which I could be racing again, but in a more relaxed manner. I originally planned to race my 2011 Husaberg, but found a 2009 Husaberg 570 for sale in Arizona for a good price and decided to buy it and convert it to a full Rally Raid race bike. This would allow me to keep my 2011 Berg as a practice and general dual-sport bike while race-prepping the '09 Berg. You can see what's involved in the race bike prep here.

In October 2012, my brother Keith passed away. He had been a professional motocross and Baja racer in the 70's and '80's. He raced the 1976 Baja 500 and 1000, as well as other similar events. Unfortunately, he broke his back while practicing one day and became paraplegic in 1986. He went on to become an elite-level wheelchair racer, but had battled infections and multiple other ailments for the past several years. With his passing, I was that much more motivated to enter, compete and finish the Mexican 1000 in his honor. I signed up for the race the first day that entries opened so I could choose #113 as my race number in tribute (his birthday was November 3).


Les Martin (M-Power) ,with help from his sons Chris and Chad, built my race bike. I headed over early on Thursday morning (Apr 25) to pick up Kevin Johnson (my mechanic for the race) and head over to Les's house to pick up the bikes. Before loading the bikes, I rode the race bike over to a nearby park for a few quick photos...


Here's a pic of me with Les and his son Chris...


Here's the race bike and my 1011 backup Berg about to be loaded up for the drive to Mexicali...

Kevin and I made the approximately 4-1/2 hours drive to Mexicali. Pulled into secondary inspection at the border crossing to check all of the paperwork on the bikes, but a pretty smooth border crossing. On Kevin's recommendation, we stopped at the Araiza Hotel in Mexicali for a great buffet lunch; and then continued on to the Colonial Hotel which served as race headquarters.

Got the bikes and gear unloaded. Made sure the bikes fit into the hotel room...

Not too many people showed up to the hotel on Thursday. We went out to eat in the evening though I forget the name of the restaurant. We basically relaxed and got to bed fairly early.

By Friday, both motorcyclists and cars/buggies/trucks were starting to show up. I took a walk around the Colonial parking lot looking at the variety of vehicles planning to attempt the Mexican 1000...

An extremely tricked out '66 Baja Bug:


A '74 Porsche 911:


A '64 Ford Galaxie:


Jim Riley and Rick (Hurricane) Johnson drove a '57 Chevy Bel Air:


'71 Chevy "Snortin Nortins" Nova:


A Custom 3-Seat Buggy:


'06 Travis Flether Pre-Runner:


'56 VW Bug:


'28 Willies Whippet:

Friday was a pretty relaxing day as well. Tried the hot breakfast served by the hotel (mexican eggs, sausage, potatoes, etc.) but it wasn't very good.

Kevin and I spent a good portion of the day out by the pool.

We watched the sponsor banners being placed up around the hotel...

We took some pictures of the bike around the pool...

Kevin hard at work...

Actually, we did real work too. Got the sat phones loaded with the appropriate phone numbers and tried each one out. We loaded the tracks on to the gps. We started laying out plans for the pit strategy. We went over the course maps for each day, and Kevin advised on when to go fast and when to take care of the bike. Studied where the rocky sections were, where the sand and silt was, etc.

We chatted up some of the other teams showing up. We went downtown Mexicali for dinner again, and one more early night to bed.

Saturday - April 27 - Tech Inspection

Saturday is registration and tech inspection. Kevin and I decide to go over to the cafe next door to the hotel for breakfast. It's really good. Place is filled with racers and crews of all types. We note the sign that says "Open 24 Hours" - that's great since it means we can get breakfast there before the very early start on the next day.

Tech Inspection is to start at 9am, so we load the race bike in the truck and head over to the bullring where registration and tech inspection are supposed to be. It's only a couple of blocks, but we figured why put even a small amount of miles on the race tires before the race. Drive over and find out we can't bring the bike in on a truck, so it's back to the hotel, unload the bike and I ride it over. It's about 9:30am and I get in the line of cars and trucks waiting for tech inspection. The line's not moving. At 10am, the line still hasn't moved. Find out that tech inspection has been changed to start at 11am. Oh well, I need to get registered anyways.

About this time Joel and Cory (the rest of my support crew) are crossing the border. They cross into Mexico easily enough, and they go to get their temporary visa (since they'll be going to Baja Sur), and find out that Joel's passport has expired (2 years ago :o )!!!

Joel's worried and trying to figure if he should go back across the border and try to get a quickie renewal, but we assure him he will have just as much hassle crossing back across the border now as at the end of the race, and he might as well wait it out.

Here's a pic of the bullring...

Pic of the bike waiting in line for tech inspection...


They finally open tech inspection. The process is first you take your vehicle up a podium and let all of the people and media take pictures.

 It's exciting! Then you ride off the podium and down contingency row (a bunch of vendors), and finally arrive at tech inspection.

Joe Desrosiers (of Joe Hauler fame) is managing tech inspection for the motorcycles. This should go well then since he was drinking beer in our room the night before - he's a good friend of Kevin's. Tech inspection isn't a big deal. Spokes zip tied together - check, reflectors on the back - check, sound the horn - check, helmet is Snell approved - check; you're done.

We take the bike back to the hotel. Joel and Cory show up, and we take them back to the bull ring to get registered. I now have my road book, though it's in a bound spiral book instead of the roll that I need for the electronic road book for motorcycles. Joel accepts the job to cut the pages out of the road book, and tape them together (carefully!!!) to make a long scroll that can be fed into the electronic road book.

The road book is used in combination with the gps files to navigate the route. The advantage of the road book is that you can scroll it forward or backwards with a handlbar-mounted thumb swtich to see what's coming up on the course, and it contains warnings for all of the major hazards on the course.

NORRA organizes a little orientation seminar about using the roadbook in the afternoon that I attend.

Later we head back towards the bullring, and stop at a restaurant next door to the bull ring for dinner.

Then it's on to the bullring for the rider's meeting.

At the riders meeting, they go over some logistics, safety issues, etc. It's actually kind of boring, but I guess a necessary thing to do. Then it's back to the hotel, organize and pack up what we can because it's going to be a very early start the next morning - race day!!!

Pre-Race          Race Day 1          Race Day 2          Race Day 3          Race Day 4