Story and photos by John Rettie -- copyright Trackside Photo
Are you nostalgic for old race trucks? Check out these photos taken in Baja, Mexico, a few days ago.
Seasoned off-road racers will remember what great fun the first few Mexican 1000 races were back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Like so many race series nowadays, the big Baja off-road races require a serious commitment of money, time and talent to win overall.
Three years ago, Mike Pearlman — the son of Ed Pearlman, who was one of the original founders of NORRA (National Off Road Racing Association), which organized the first Baja race in 1967 — revived the Mexican 1000 Rally. Only now it is for vintage off-road race vehicles and those who want to run modern “non-race” cars, such as pre-runners and rally cars.
The event has grown popular, and this year some 73 cars and trucks along with 20 bikes started the four-day rally in Mexicali. Each day the competitors tackled two or three timed stages on dirt tracks. Then they traversed transit sections on paved highways to overnight stops at beautiful locations such as Bahia de Los Angeles, Loreto and La Paz, on their way to the finish Thursday in San Jose del Cabo.
Several classic winning trucks entered this year, including Walker Evans, who returned to drive his 1977 Dodge pickup. Parnelli Jones’ 1977 Chevy C-10 and Ivan Stewart’s 1978 Ford F-100 ran in the event but not with their original drivers.
Robby Gordon, a three-time Baja 1000 winner, was there to help Clyde Stacy, who was behind the wheel of the Hummer that Nasser Al-Attiyah drove in the last Dakar Rally. If you're wondering how a race truck like this could run against vintage machinery, it's because there are several classes for modern vehicles, and the Hummer is not as potent as a trophy truck, even though that’s what it is under that bright-orange body.
Several people competed in modern trucks, including Cam Thieriot in a beautiful 2010 Ford F-150 pre-runner complete with electric windows and air conditioning. Others were in trucks that looked slightly worse for wear, obviously having seen plenty of race action long ago.
That's the beauty of this event -- it harkens back to the days when you could bring any modified vehicle down to race on the dirt roads in Baja. Most drivers, navigators and support crews took vacation time to participate in the rally. Everyone enjoyed the adventure, treating it as a fun event rather than a flat-out, highly charged, competitive race. Socializing each evening and bench racing seemed just as important as the driving.
Considering there must be literally hundreds of old race trucks scattered around the country, it should not be too difficult to find one and restore sufficiently to be able to enter a future Mexican 1000 Rally. It’s undoubtedly one of the only and most exciting ways to explore this beautiful part of the world. It’s four days, 1,100 miles, 10,000 smiles — and a million memories.
For the full recap of the race or to find out more about racing in the Mexican 1000, click here.