A Rally Revisited: Looking Back at the 2012 Norra Mexican 1000

JULY 10, 2012: With the third annual running of the National Off-Road Racing Association (NORRA) General Tire Mexican 1000 now in the record books, there has been time to reflect on an event that cemented the rally’s heritage as the “Happiest Race on Earth”.

The months leading up to this annual NORRA-promoted rally down the Baja peninsula were filled with news of corporate supporters backing the event, the largest of which was a new partnership with General Tire as title sponsor. Signs of General’s welcome support was readily evident, with NORRA’s adding a great deal to pre-event marketing and public relations as well as adding increased assets towards the rally’s safety and overall execution. NORRA even helped create a special “Retro Pace Truck” for the rally that included an old-school General Tire graphics treatment and was a key support vehicle for General Tire guests.

Also joining General Tire in support of the 2012 Mexican 1000 was Michael Gaughan’s South Point Hotel Casino, Walker Evans Racing, American Racing Wheel, Azunia Tequila, KC HiLites, Mastercraft/Impact Safety, Wide Open Excursions and Baja Bound Insurance. Rally participant Butch Jensen’s T-Bird Lounge generously stepped in to provide support for the event’s finale at Mark Post’s Cabo Azul Resort.

This year’s event also recorded a record-high number of entrants, with nearly 100 teams showing up in Mexicali to take the green flag, a near 25% increase in growth and another strong indication the annual rally has vitality and viability for the future.

With the 2012 General Tire Mexican 1000’s Grand Marshal Dave Despain providing Master of Ceremonies duties, the event kicked off in unique style with a Driver’s Meeting held within Mexicali’s historic old bullring. This was after an uplifting day of Technical Inspection that saw large crowds gather in the bullring’s parking lot thanks to NORRA shifting the rally’s starting time to a weekend as opposed to its previous mid-week schedule. Another new addition to this year’s event was a fourth day of competition, one which would see competitors make the sweeping run from La Paz to the steps of the world class Cabo Azul Resort at land’s end in San Jose del Cabo.

In the days to come, contestants and their support teams brought both historic and some special modern machinery back to life as they competed down the Baja to earn one of NORRA coveted, hand-made brass trophies. Transmission woes took out early favorites Walker Evans, Mark Post and the two-time Mexican 1000 winning team of Bob Gordon and the Arciero family, but others like Michael Gaughan, Mark McMillin, and the General Tire-shod vehicles of Boyd Jaynes/Brian Godfrey, Jim Riley and Rick Johnson kept pace leading their respective classes. In the “Evolution” categories there was no catching (or mistaking) the bright orange Speed-Energy Dakar Hummer of Clyde Stacy and Robby Gordon, which led from the drop of the green flag.

The motorcycle group was also a competitive bunch in 2012, perhaps spurred on by the last-minute entry of an old Husqvarna motorcycle to be ridden by none other than icon Malcolm Smith and son Alexander. Both men were there to film a new documentary being produced by the Hollywood-based Bandito Brothers entitled the “Baja Social Club”, which chronicled the Mexican 1000 experience through the eyes of off-road racing pioneers like the Smith, Bruce Meyers and Vic Wilson, both of whom were also on hand making the trans-peninsula run with their original Meyers Manx dune buggies.

In the end, the Mexican 1000 circa 2012 was a battle between Michael Gaughan, Mark McMillin, John Swift (in his Rough Rider Ford Explorer), Dave Westhem/Randy Salmont and Brian Collins. With a little help (but not much) from son Brendan, Michael Gaughan proudly took home the big prize by just 28 seconds, with the top five finishing in this order.

The motorcycle group was won by Octavio Valle riding a newer Honda Dakar, with the Smith family coming home a remarkable third.

The celebration at the Cabo finish line last well into the evening, with NORRA’s “Happy Hour” and seaside “Awards Dinner,” held on the sands in front of the Azul. The party hosted more than 450 sponsors, racers and their crew, and was followed by an award’s ceremony hosted again by Dave Despain. A new General Tire “Spirit of Baja” award was given to Malcolm and Alexander Smith, a fitting tribute to family that has inspired so many to enjoy Baja adventure and fun.

Once the awards were complete, Mark Post hosted a huge fireworks display right on the beach, a show many NORRA guests felt was the best they’d ever seen.

“The 2012 General Tire NORRA Mexican 1000 represented a significant step in realizing what our vision for this event will ultimately become,” said NORRA President Mike Pearlman. “I want to extend my gratitude to all of our sponsors, staff, the country of Mexico and the states of Baja, along with all of our racers and teams. The goal now is to build on the 2012 rally and make it even better and more enjoyable for 2013 and beyond. It’s really a matter of taking this winning formula and spicing up the recipe to create an off-road experience that can’t be found anywhere else.”

NORRA is now in the process of finalizing event dates for 2013, along with other rally rules and logistics. These announcements are expected to be released by August and continue throughout the remainder of the year.

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