With its roots from 1967, the 2016 edition of the NORRA Mexican 1000 Off Road Race ran 1374 miles down the Baja peninsula, starting in Ensenada with the checkered flag in San Jose del Cabo. The four-day event represents six eras of race cars, defined primarily by the technology available when originally introduced. Each era will be awarded an overall trophy.
One hundred twenty-four racers will begin their journey down the peninsula in Ensenada, advancing each day to the Bay of Los Angeles; then Loreto; then the capital city of Baja California Sur, La Paz, and finally the finish in San Jose del Cabo.
COPS Racing entered two Spec Trophy Trucks in the race: the E/S Motorsports #29 driven by Zak Langley, and the #250 Brenthel-built truck driven by John Langley — both trucks are in the Evolution Unlimited Class for contemporary race cars.
If you’d like to follow along, here’s a map of course, from top to bottom.
Contingency Row and Tech Inspection
Contingency Row gives race fans a down-and-dirty, close-up view of the racers and race cars in an almost a carnival-like atmosphere. The pre-race event is held the day before the race in front of the historic Riviera Convention Center and gives racers one last chance to solicit help from sponsors before the race. At the end of Contingency Row, race cars pass through Technical Inspection, to verify the race car is rules-compliant and safe to race.
The NORRA 1000 has been described as a “Gentleman’s Race” as evidenced by the relaxed, fun atmosphere of Contingency.
John Langley will pilot the COPS Racing #250 in the Evolution Unlimited Era class. “Evolution Era” includes contemporary race cars and UTVs.
Zak Langley will be driving the 2016 COPS Racing #29 E/S Motorsports Spec Trophy Truck in the contest, for Pro Unlimited for Evolution Era cars.
Michael Power drove the #125 1991 Nissan T Mag, racing in the Historic Truck and Truggy class, which is defined as 20 years or older.
Troy Herbst is the driver of the iconic Terrible Herbst Land Shark, the revolutionary 1994 Smittybuilt truggy (half truck, half buggy).
Jonathan Swift raced this 1975 Ford F-100 in the Pioneer 4×4 class.
John Swift is driving the 1972 Olds Cutlass in the Pioneer Era class, for 1967 through 1975 cars. The car was festooned with a tequila version of The Tecate Girls.
Day 1: Ensenada to Bahia de Los Angeles (456.70 miles)
COPS staged at 6 a.m for the 7 a.m. start of the 1374 mile race. After departing Ensenada, racers will log 456 miles before seeing the day’s finish in the Bay of Los Angeles on the east side of Baja.
John chats with the Brenthel brothers before the race.
Mark McMillian’s Baja-winning #83 1979 Chenowth Class 2 car. When one of the COPS Crew Members walked past, Mark called him over and bragged, “Hey, you guys don’t have one of these.” He pushed a button on his dash and a digital read-out said “Beer me! Beer me!”
Mike Howell will handle the right-hand seat duties with John Langley in the COPS #250.
The #29 COPS truck is off the line in Ensenada with its cross-hairs on Cabo.
John leaves the dirt and enters Highway 1 outrunning a bus.
Our first gas stop at Santa Maria, around 125 miles into Day 1, and midway in our first Special Section. Due to timing, we had the time for a luxuriously-long gas stop where drivers could get out of the car and relax.
The second truck arrives in our pits — George prepares to fuel it.
Zak schools Mike on some of the navigation equipment.
The co-driver navigates with a road book (aka tulip notes) augmenting the GPS — he has little time to look out the window.
At our second fuel stop, Kory Halopoff repairs the #29’s rear Fiberglas fender. Kory will drive the #250 for a leg of the race to give John a break.
Both COPS race trucks carry MaxTrax extraction ramps. Most racers view this new technology as cheap insurance against getting stuck.
The #250 waits out the clock on a Special Section, where timing is critical — you do not want to arrive too early or too late.
After a flawless day of racing for both trucks, we visit Pit City at the finish line in Bay of Los Angeles, where tacos and margaritas flowed freely, along with many race-related stories.
Day 2: Bahia de Los Angeles to Loreto (437.60 miles)
Sunup at the Bay of LA. The first cars depart town at 7:30.
The Terrible Herbst Land Shark leaves the line at Bay of LA. In one more day, the Shark would catch fire and burn to the ground.
John leaves the starting line at the direction of NORRA Director Mike Pearlman. It was Pearlman’s late father Ed, along with others, who established the first running of the NORRA Mexican 1000 off-road rally in November 1967.
A vado? Looks more like a tope to me! Ja ja – love that Baja humor!
The view of the Loreto Finish Line from the balcony of our room at the Mision Hotel. I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep when I got the word: George and Manny had hit a horse in one of the Team’s F-350 chase trucks. Luckily they were OK, but the Ford and the horse didn’t fare so well. We drove north of Loreto about 10 miles to get them and bring them to the hotel.
And then the other shoe dropped. Zak, in our #29 truck, had a blown motor and Steve and I were tasked to retrieve Zak, his co-driver, and the race truck. We were on the Sea of Cortez while Zak was on the Pacific side, near San Juanico, about 30 miles north of the closest pavement. We were looking at a very long night at best.
George and Manny’s chase truck will sit this race out. On the trip north, we stopped to remove the generator/welder, tools, and spare race truck parts.
Day 3: Loreto to La Paz (324.10 miles)
We have to assume the cars started OK in Loreto — the four of us, with broken race truck in tow head south to meet the race in progress. The sunrise was quite spectacular.
Steve and I spent a night to get to Zak, who was waiting patiently (and freezing) in his truck in front of the San Juanico police station. With Zak’s truck on the trailer, we rejoined the race in progress on Tuesday. Monday-Tuesday would eventually be a 38-hour day for us.
Florian Oger tears it up with the Snortin’ Nortin’ 1971 Chevy Nova — a favorite of spectators.
Dennis swapped out the #250’s air filter — he dropped the old filter on the ground and a little light brown silt came out.
Racers in the distance, headed to La Paz.
Chris Wilson and Glen Straightiff working for the finish in the Vintage Class 1966 Ford Bronco.
Day 4: La Paz to San Jose del Cabo (155.60 miles)
We swapped out one of the #250’s tires before the last Special Section due to low air pressure.
John restarts the last Special Section toward the checkers in Cabo — a mechanical problem is only miles ahead …
John waits for his truck’s wheel bearing to be swapped out. Including the time required to locate him, and mechanical repairs, his down-time was close to two hours. Even with the down-time, he would finish seventh in class.
Dennis and Corey and Mike swap out the #250’s wheel bearing with the broken #29’s bearing.
Dennis Crowley, COPS Racing Crew Chief, was an amazing force driving the team to the finish in Cabo. Always in a good mood, while dealing the constant chaos called “racing.”
End-of-race dinner in San Jose del Cabo. Beginning the next day, we will drive to Carson, CA, 1200 miles to the north.
Playa Lugui — as nice is it is, expect to see a resort and 18-hole golf course with loud, drunk Americans in the near future.
Where the best margaritas in the world are made: the bar at the Oasis Hotel in Loreto.
Downtown Loreto, BCS, an über-cool Baja town.
A photo sphere of the Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó which was founded on October 25, 1697 — the first of the California Missions.
North on Highway 1 along the Sea of Cortez. Note the road shoulder width – extra challenging when towing a trailer.
Playa En Bahia Concepcion Magico Lugar.
Dennis needed to make an important business stop at Armondo’s at Playa Santispac which just so happens to serve a pretty good lunch.
A photo sphere taken at Microondas Tiburón — Bahía Concepción to the south and Mulegé to the north.
Passing thru one of the handful of military checkpoints along Highway 1 — homeward bound.
- 12 things we learned on the Mexico 1000 — As our internal organs recover, some thoughts from possibly the world’s greatest race.
- First Baja 1000 – 27 Hours to La Paz — The first official race started in Tijuana, Baja California, on October 31, 1967, and was named the NORRA Mexican 1000 Rally. The course length that year was 849 miles (1,366 km) and ended in La Paz, Baja California Sur, with the overall winning time of 27 hours 38 minutes (27:38) set by Vic Wilson and Ted Mangels while driving a Meyers Manx buggy