This is the daddy of all off-road races: the Mexican 1000. It started exactly 50 years ago by the National Off-Road Racing Association, the first sanctioning body dedicated to off road racing. The first event began in Tijuana and finished in La Paz, while this 50th Anniversary running would start in Ensenada and finish in San Jose del Cabo 1,264.10 miles down the peninisula. After leaving Ensenada, racers passed through San Felipe, Bay of Los Angeles, Loreto, and then La Paz before the dash to the finish. Start to finish took five days, if you were lucky enough to make it.
If you’d like to follow along, here’s a map of course, from top to bottom.
Extra-credit reading and videos below the photos.
Contingency Row and Tech Inspection
For the 2017 Mexican 1000, COPS Racing campaigned two trucks: Zak Langley and Josh Valko will pilot the #55 Trophy Truck, while somewhere back in the dust, John Langley and Mike Howell will be in the Trophy Spec #250. That’s COPS Crew Chief Mike Meehan with Josh escorting the trucks through Contingency and Tech.
As with many races, Contingency Row and Tech Inspection were held in front of the Riviera Cultural Center in Ensenada.
Rene Aguirre was piloting Triple Nickel Racing‘s El “Galaxia de la Baja,” a 1964 Ford Galaxie competing in the Vintage Production Cars Class. He saw the finish in San Juan.
Spencer Low’s 1988 Nissan King Cab.
Dennis signs John’s autograph on an over-served, and over-friendly local.
Jon Steinhilber and Joe Lowery drove their 1965 Meyers Manx in the Pioneer Era Class (1967 – 1975).
This 1959 Triumph TR3 was in the first NORRA Mexican 1000 50 years ago, but DNF’d after breaking a crankshaft near Santa Ynez. This year, the car saw the checkers in San Jose del Cabo.
A ’57 Chevy Bel Air in a 1300 mile Baja race? Sure, why not. The #609, aka the Rippin’ Rooster, was a fan favorite originally built and raced by Larry Schwacofer more than 30 years ago.
Day 1: Ensenada to San Felipe (200.20 miles)
NORRA President Mike Pearlman signals John that he has 10 seconds until his start. It was Mike’s dad, Ed, who started this race 50 years ago at the same spot.
Number 55 ends a 117-mile race section near Mike’s Sky Ranch to begin a Transit on Highway 3 to the northern end of El Diablo dry lake.
George flags in #250 for a brief pit stop near San Matias.
Co-driver Mike exits the truck while the #250 is fueled.
The first day of racing was uneventful — the way we like it. Night time consumes San Felipe on the Sea of Cortez.
Day 2: San Felipe to Bahia de Los Angeles (221.00 miles)
Early morning, John and Mike are going over their truck. John was noticeably antsy — he was anxious to get to the starting line.
Inside the #250’s cockpit, Co-driver Mike makes last-minute adjustments to John’s GPS.
One of the competitors in the 1000 was a 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon in the RV Class, which just returned with a win at the 24 Hours of Lemons.
Starting in the fifth position, Zak gets final instructions from Mike Pearlman.
A mile south of Coco’s Corner we were able to help Randy Wilson who had rolled at a particularly sneaky curve. Both occupants were out of the truck and OK. The 1993 Ford Ranger was racing in the Prerunner Truck class, and finished first in class at the checkers. As we were leaving, I said to the driver “Be safe out there.” He replied with “It’s a little late for that advise.”
South of San Felipe, the race course followed a dirt section of Mexican Highway 5. We met people out there, who I’d wager, did not know a race was underway.
The entire team was housed at “The Castle” overlooking the Bay of LA.
End of day in Bahía de los Ángeles.
Any sleep anywhere, is good sleep. But with overnight, near-hurricane-force winds, sleeping was a challenge at best.
Day 3: Bahia de Los Angeles to Loreto (396.70 miles)
Zak leaves the line in the Bay of LA; destination Loreto in Baja California Sur. Due to logistics, this was the last time we saw the trucks or team until we arrived in Loreto.
Once in Loreto, there was in impromptu pow wow in the hotel parking lot.
High temperatures created brake rotor issues — they were identified and fixed.
Dennis and Josh make repairs to the #55’s rear fender hanger which was severely damaged during a tire blow-out.
Day 4: Loreto to La Paz (293.30 miles)
Then the Shinola hit the Westinghouse. The #250 drove into a Grand Canyon-sized rain rut which hurdled them off the road, breaking tie rods and the rack-and-pinon steering. One of the #250’s rescue trucks hit a cavernous pothole on Highway 1, which fatally damaged its steering. At 10:30 pm, we received a text from Zak asking us to help in the rescue effort — we were looking at a four-hour commute to the Pacific side of the peninsula. Meanwhile, only minutes before the start in Loreto, the #55’s starter failed causing a one-hour delay in starting the race, knocking Zak from around fifth place to near 25th.
We arrived at the #250 at first light Wednesday morning. The plan was to swap broken parts with parts that almost fit — it could then be limped five miles back to the trailer.
Mike, Mike, and Steve work on repairing the #250. It’s always handy when you can lift the fiberglass hood off the truck and put it somewhere out of your way.
Waiting for his time to start, Roger (aka Royer) Lovell is running his 1968 Ford Bronco in the Vintage Short Wheelbase 4×4 Class.
The COPS Trophy Truck begins a Special Section just south of Ciudad Constitucion. Next stop in 200 miles, La Paz.
Day 5: La Paz to San Jose del Cabo (152.90 miles)
Zak and Josh depart La Paz for a final day of racing.
A mile from the finish, the driver’s-side rear brake caught on fire, and neither Zak or Josh were aware of it until they arrived on the podium and a hundred guys came running at them with fire extinguishers. The COPS Racing #55 finished sixth in class and 15th overall.
Cameron Steele cinched the overall win in his Geiser Trophy Truck — congratulations to all!
After the checkers — time for a beer and taco. Or two.
Josh Valco handled co-driver duties in the #55 for the entire 1,264.10 miles of the Mexican 1000.
The NORRA closing party was held on the beach at the Club de Playa Campsesre. There was music and food and drink along with a spectacular view of the Pacific.
Steve attempts to get a photo by the really big NORRA sign.
COPS Racing Team Owner, John Langley happy with the results of the #55.
The COPS Racing table was conveniently located next to one of the bars, and very close to the awards stage.
The 1200 Mile Drive Home
The race is over, so Friday morning we all pack up and start the trek back north — it will take three full days of driving to get home.
This is Baja, so this must be a vaca crossing.
We’re heading north quickly, but stop for a tailgate lunch on the beach at Ligüí.
Looking north across Estero Ligüí — the dark blue Sea of Cortez is distant.
When in Loreto, we like staying at the always awesome Oasis Hotel, home of the world’s best margaritas.
A quick stop for fish tacos at Buenaventura on Bahia Concepcion. A tradition.
Beginning the one-hour wait to cross the border into the US at Tecate. When we got home, we had driven a little over 2,900 miles with more than 52 hours of driving time. That, with sleep deprivation and hunger, is what we call “fun.”
Extra-credit reading and videos: