Three Days, 1000 Miles, Vintage Cars And Tons Of Fun
A cool breeze drifted off the Pacific Ocean, carrying with it the typical morning fog Tijuana, Mexico, was known for. It was Halloween morning, and somewhere in the confusion and border-town mayhem, a handful of anxious racers lined up near Tijuana's famous bull-fighting arena; dirt bikes, buggies, a few race-prepped sedans, a Jeep or two, and the odd pickup truck. Eight hundred and fifty miles to the south, in the sleepy port town of La Paz, a large checkered flag wrapped around a wooden dowel stood in the corner of a small hotel room...waiting. The year was 1967, and a guy named Ed Pearlman and his crew from the newly established National Off Road Racing Association (NORRA) had come up with the idea for a non-stop race down the Baja peninsula - The Mexican 1000.
Forty years have passed, racing technology has advanced tenfold, many of those old cars and racers are no longer with us, and the Mexican 1000 has become and been known as the Baja 1000 for many years. But last year the folks at NORRA came up with another brilliant idea to recreate that original race, resurrect some of the original fleet, and invite those iconic names of yesteryear to suit-up and do it again. Enter the 2010 NORRA Mexican 1000.
When I got the offer to ride with Rod Hall in one of the most recognized rides of its day, the James Garner Olds 442 Cutlass, I immediately booked the appointment.
I arrived in Reno, Nevada, two days before the race for an orientation and to help with last-minute prep for the car. There were a few issues, including a chewed-up flexplate on the transmission. It was 11:30 p.m. by the time the tranny was going back in, and I headed for Los Angeles to pick up our Lowrance GPS, then to Mexicali (about 700 miles). Rod called about 7 a.m. "Chris, I'm sorry but the engine has problems...metal shavings in the pan...looks like we ain't racing." I was just shy of the border and my ride-of-a-lifetime just went down the pan. I was bummed. I pulled up the race route into my GPS, looked at my media credentials, and thought, "the worst day in Baja beats working...." I decided to chase the race on my own. Plus, the rulebook stated that support teams couldn't run the course, but media could-it was the perfect opportunity.