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Chasing NORRA - Riding along in a Trophy-Lite Support Truck

Posted in Events on July 24, 2016
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A week before the NORRA Mexican 1000, I received a phone call asking if I would like to fill an open seat in a chase truck. Of course, I jumped at the chance. We would be chasing a Trophy-Lite truck entered in the evolution class.

While these equally matched trucks are by no means vintage, NORRA has opened up the evolution class for modern vehicles that race Baja to participate in the event. I arrive in Ensenada for technical inspection. There is no shortage of vintage eye candy. Beautifully restored trucks and buggies like the McMillin Macadu, a 1979 Chenowth built buggy.

The rally starts off in Ensenada on Day One ending in Bay of LA. For us it’s a long day with no major problems. Driver Todd Martin and Co-Driver Carly Lavamaki brought the truck all the way into Bahia De Los Angeles. Just a few pit stops to check over the truck and dump fuel. The truck had survived the first official race day of the rally.

We had to get on the course to swap out the alternator on the Trophy-Lite.

Day Two started off status-quo. The chase team was already in Guerro Negro when the truck launched, so all we had to do was sit at the hotel and track on the internet feed. As the truck got to a certain point on the course, we headed out to Vizcaino set up the first pit where we would fuel and check over the truck. As we arrived the satellite phone rang with bad news. The truck was dead on the course with zero power. A quick diagnosis of the problem, we determine the alternator has gone bad. We borrow an alternator from another support team and head to a location where can drop our trailer and go in to the course to help fix the truck.

Several hours later we get the truck running but just a few miles down the road the truck dies again. Seems the alternator we were given was no good. It was already late afternoon. We decide to call it a day, load the truck up on a trailer and take the maximum time penalty for this stage in the race. We drive all night getting into Loreto just before daybreak, exhausted but still determined to get the truck fixed.

We pile into a hotel while Mike Higbee and Todd Martin go off to fix the truck. I get what seems like an hour of sleep and get up to answer emails. I am also watching the start of the race on the internet feed. Not longer after, Mike Higbee comes flying into the hotel parking lot with the truck. “Get me my race suit!” he screams. “We got to go!” Everyone springs into action loading the chase truck. We need to move and fast. We have a few hours drive to Insurgentes to pit the truck.

Racers wait for officials to re-route the racecourse after the Herbst Landshark fire closes the race course.

As we arrive we had been listening to radio chatter that the famous Herbst landshark truggy had caught fire and the course would need to be rerouted due to down powerlines. The truck is fueled and after a 30-minute delay, officials restart the race in another location. The rest of our day is flawless as we chase the truck into La Paz. Just one more day remained in the Rally. The easiest and last day would take drivers just 90 or so miles on dirt and the rest on pavement into San Jose Del Cabo to the finish line. I jump in a truck with the Azunia Tequila crew to beat the racecars to the finish.

The assignment is to hand out tequila shots to all of the finishers. Perfect! At the finish line it’s a big party. Teams celebrating, locals taking pictures. Our trophy lite truck takes a second place finish in our class. The party continues at a private timeshare resort with all the food, trophies and a spectacular fireworks show. An exhausting but amazing week on the chase team. I am already reserving a seat for next year.

Our chase duties included fueling the truck at pit stops.

The McMillin Macadu was one of the more famous vehicles racing Baja in the early 1980’s.

Day One was one of the longer days of the Rally with drivers racing from Ensenada to Bahia De Los Angeles.

The trophy lite coming off a dirt section onto the highway at the NORRA Mexican 1000.

In typical NORRA fashion, it was a big party at the finish.

Beautifully crafted trophies each featuring a Baja legend awaited the winners at the party in San Jose Del Cabo.

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