A Reformed NORRA Creates New Mexican 1000 Rally

Jul. 21, 2009 By DirtSports Magazine

Printed with permission from Dirt Sports Magazine from the 2009 June issue

Do you have an old vintage race truck, dune buggy or motorcycle collecting dust in the corner of your garage? Or are you interested in perhaps taking an alternative fuel approach to off-road racing? Have you dreamed of seeing the Baja peninsula without the around-the-clock pressure of a modern race to La Paz? If so, then perhaps Mike Pearlman has just created the answer for you. Pearlman is the driving force behind reviving National Off Road Racing Association (NORRA) and its forthcoming NORRA Mexican 1000 Rally.

If names like Pearlman, NORRA and the Mexican 1000 Rally sound vaguely familiar, well, they should. Mike Pearlman is the son of the late Ed Pearlman, the man who, with the help of legends like Bruce Meyers, Vic Hickey, Vic Wilson and Brian Chuchua, helped form NORRA in July of 1967 to organize that year’s inaugural Mexican 1000 – the first truly professional off-road race and the precursor to today’s Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. From the start, Ed Pearlman was the organization’s leader, a position he held until NORRA folded sometime in the mid-1970s.

Created as a way to “honor the past and forge the future,” the 2009 NORRA Mexican 1000 (scheduled for September 16-20, 2009) is the vision of Mike Pearlman and a select group of others who wish to bring back the fun and spirit of those original Baja races. Taking a page from the very successful car rallies/races that have sparked a huge vintage motorsports industry for sports and touring cars, Pearlman is keen on creating a “fun new way for an entirely forgotten group of Baja enthusiasts to bring out their old machinery and remember history.”

While NORRA’s original vision was to accommodate only pre-1975 vehicles, Pearlman later shared that all pre-1989 four-wheel racecars will be accepted, a ruling that will undoubtedly attract far more vintage buggies (Raceco, Funco, Chenowth), cars and even the potential for older Class 8 and Class 7 trucks. Also under consideration is the allowance of pre-1989 motorcycles, but for now the cut off is for pre-1975 bikes. In a unique twist, NORRA is also creating a class for all type of modern alternative fuel vehicles as well. Much of this thinking is also to avoid any possible conflict or competition with SCORE or Sal Fish, whom Pearlman says he holds in “utmost respect and admiration.”

Since its announcement, NORRA has seen a groundswell of interest from many parties including the likes of motorcycle legend Eddie Mulder, dune buggy inventor Bruce Meyers and Ray and John Swift, who hope to bring both their Stroppe-Edsel and their recently acquired Vic Hickey/James Garner Olds “Banshee” to the event. Ron Johnson of Oregon has also committed entering an original Hickey Chevy race truck (to be driven by non other than Cliff Coleman) and his stored Hickey Olds originally piloted by James Garner.

While Pearlman admits that there are still many elements of the rally that need to be solidified, NORRA is intent on following a multi-day format that includes a combination of on-road and smooth off-road sections designed to be “enjoyable, not car busting.” While keeping the routes secret until the start of each day’s stage to prevent costly pre-running, at this time the rally is set to take three days to reach La Paz from an undermined city in the north (most likely Ensenada or Mexicali) via overnight stops at Bahia de Los Angeles and Loreto.

For complete information on the rally, visit www.norra.com.

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