2014 NORRA Mexican 1000 Start

May. 13, 2014 By Art Eugenio, GETSOMEphotos.com

It’s that time of year again, as the NORRA Mexican 1000 has returned and once again bigger than the previous year with 30 more entries than the last. For the first time since its return in 2011 the Mexican 1000 started in Ensenada, which has pretty much established itself as the start line of any significant off-road race.

From Ensenada, this year’s course will travel south along the coast running parallel to the Pacific Ocean and some of the most beautiful scenery known to man, and it then cuts east into the first overnight stop in Bahia de Los Angeles. Each day racers will be met with another challenging stage of Baja terrain, stopping each night for rest and repairs until reaching their final destination in San Jose Del Cabo.

This year the Mexican 1000 started in Ensenada.

Over the last few years we’ve followed the NORRA Mexican 1000 from a number of perspectives, whether it be as a spectator, as part of a chase crew, or as part of a race team.  This year we’ll also be tagging along with Rory Ward and his vintage rig that once belonged to the late and great Mickey Thompson himself.

2014 Photo Highlights

2013 Mexican 1000 Coverage

2012 NORRA Mexican 1000

More than just an old racecar, this car was light years ahead of the technology of the day, boasting huge 4-foot custom coilover shocks with 18 inches of wheel travel when everyone else was still running a pack of yellow Bilsteins and topping out a 8 inches. It is powered by a V8 motor and live rear axle compared to the stand VW-type setup. The car also features a myriad of other firsts that have only recently become standard in desert racing, and all of this tech more than 30 years ago.

“I first saw a picture of this car online maybe eight years ago, it wasn’t complete but it was intact,” Ward said. “Then Jeff Furrier and I came down to the first NORRA run and on the way back we were already thinking about what car to get, we have to get a car, something with linage, what’s out there, what’s available? As soon as I got back I started the search, went back and found the photo online and traced to back to a website which took a couple of days. So went through the deal to track it down and finally got a phone number and called about the car and it was still there, I left a message and didn’t hear back for nearly three months.

Rory Ward and his vintage Mickey Thompson racecar.

“By this time… I was knee deep in the Mark Stahl car, which is the car that Jeff ended up purchasing, but I really wanted to get the Thompson car,” he continued. “When I was finally able to talk to the owner of the Thompson it was more like job interview. She didn’t want to talk about money really but was more interested in what I was going to do with it. I said I wanted to restore it, race it once and then put it in a museum and, bam, next thing I knew I was on my way to pick it up.”

The inside of the "ahead of its time" Mickey Thompson racecar.

But it wasn’t purely the fact that the car was ahead of its time; it was also the nostalgia that came with the car.

“As much as this car represents a time when innovation was wide open, this car is the one that caught my attention when I was a kid,” Ward said. “I remember this car vividly from when I was a kid and my dad was racing. I was eight years old and couldn’t care less about off-road racing, chasing lizards around in the pits as my Dad raced, but I remember this car, with its giant yellow wing, the sound of the engine as it came flying past me. This car caught my imagination all those years ago and brought me here. I’m so stoked to have that history with it and I’m looking forward to getting it to the finish in Cabo a few days from now.”

Rory Ward heads down the Mexican 1000 course along the Pacific Ocean.

The other part is more than it being Mickey’s old car, but a resurrection of a creation from a man who put off-road racing on the map. Mickey’s hand in the off-road world is still being felt today through the continuance of SCORE International, which Mickey founded in 1973 with well known races like the Baja 500 and Baja 1000. A variance of the short-course scene that he fathered is still going strong today with both the Lucas Oil and TORC series as well as RG’s Formula Off-road. Mickey’s legacy is modern off-road racing as we know it today.

2014 Photo Highlights

2013 Mexican 1000 Coverage

2012 NORRA Mexican 1000

So some will say as innovative as this car is that it never faired well in an actual race, which is true, but the fact that it was so far beyond the technology of the day showed Mickey’s foresight into the future of how to go fast in the desert. Now, with Rory Ward behind the wheel, we’ll see if he make the run in honor of the man who gave us the go fast monsters we have today.

Walker Evans is just one of the off-road legends taking part in the 2014 NORRA Mexican 1000.

You can track of the entire progress of the on http://www.racetheworld.net/.

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