By Jon Crowley
I had the chance to experience the NORRA 1000 with my buddy Wally Wallace in 2012. Although we didn’t participate in the race, we drove most of the off-road sections in our Polaris RZR XP4 900 in order to get a videographer out on the race course (see 2012 NORRA MEXICAN 1000). That year, the rally went from Mexicali to San Jose Del Cabo over 4 days.
In 2018, I was invited to tag along and document the rally for Cognito Motorsports. The 2018 NORRA Mexican 1000 Rally was a 5-day peninsula run from Ensenada to San Jose Del Cabo. I joined the team on Friday in Bakersfield, CA as they made last minute preparations before heading across the border and down to Ensenada for tech and contingency.
Justin Lambert is a Polaris factory racer that competes in Best in the Desert and SCORE. He typically races a Polaris RZR XP4 Turbo that is completely modified to meet requirements for these series. For the NORRA rally, Justin switched it up a bit and decided to race his pre-runner Polaris RZR XP4 Turbo.
The Cognito Motorsports Pre-Runner RZR shares many of the same components as the full-tilt race car like Cognito long travel suspension, shock tune and wheels and tires, but then it diverges. The Pre-Runner RZR has a bolt-on Cognito cage with opening doors and bolt-on window nets. In the back row, the seats have been removed, and a 30-gallon Cognito fuel cell complete with dry-break receiver and gas station fill options. Plus a bolt-in carrier for large totes that allow you to carry spare parts and tools.
The Cognito Motorsports Pre-Runner RZR also has a Cognito spare tire carrier and roof rack, Rugged Radios intercom, radio and helmet fresh air pumper, Simpson seats and harnesses, 32-inch ITP Ultracross tires mounted on Method beadlock wheels, KC HiLiTES Flex LED lights and rear chase bar, Sparks Racing Revolution clutch kit, FOX shocks, FK Rod Ends and a S&B particle separator.
NORRA 1000 UTV Classes
UTVs are all part of the Evolution Era (modern race cars). There are four different UTV classes for the NORRA 1000: Stock UTV, Stock Turbo UTV, Modified UTV and Modified Turbo UTV.
Stock UTV classes are for showroom stock UTVs, as factory delivered, but with the addition of window nets and 5-point harnesses. Side doors are required to be added if not originally equipped with such. Stock cages, stock gas tanks, stock seats are all acceptable in this class. Basic safety items as required for all cars are also required such as first aid kits, fire extinguishers, horns, rear amber lights, etc.
Modified UTV classes are for UTVs that have been modified to race other classes like Best in the Desert or SCORE. All entries must meet the same safety requirements as cars and trucks, specifically full cages, side protection, window nets, racing seats, 5-point harnesses, first aid kits, fire extinguishers, horns, amber lights, etc. Fuel cells are not required and are optional in this category.
Based on these modifications, #918 Cognito Motorsports Pre-Runner RZR was in the Evolution Modified Turbo UTV class.
I joined the chase crew of Mitchell Alsup and Chris Boyer in the Cognito Motorsports Chase Truck for the trip down Baja. The 2017 Ford Superduty is outfitted with a Cognito Motorsports leveling kit, FOX shocks, Method wheels, 37-inch tires and a Douglas service bed.
Tech and Contingency
Tech and contingency was much faster than for SCORE races, so that was nice. And NORRA had it setup for tech over two days (Friday and Saturday) to ease the congestion.
Day 1: Ensenada ~ San Felipe
Day 2: San Felipe ~ Bahia de los Angeles
Day 3: Bahia de los Angeles ~ Loreto
Day 4: Loreto ~ La Paz
Pit strategy for the #norra1000 is a bit different than #BITD or #SCORE During transit stages we have more time than necessary so we do preventative maintenance on the car. At this pit, @cognitomotorsports fueled (21 gallons), replaces an axle that had a boot leak and blew out the clutch. #PreRunnerRZR @mitchellalsup @boyer_1021 @jlcognito @sarahmichele23 @crowley.jon @utvguide
Day 5: La Paz ~ San Jose del Cabo
At the end of the race, Justin Lambert and the Cognito Motorsports team did what they set out to do. They not only finished the race, but were first in class for the Evolution Modified Turbo UTV class!
Justin Lambert is sponsored by: Cognito Motorsports, Polaris, Monster Energy, ITP Tires, Sparks Performance Products, FOX, Method, FK Rod Ends
Things to know if you want to race the NORRA 1000
Racing is Baja is much more complicated than in the states, and a full Peninsula run takes a lot of effort. Here are a few things that I think are key:
- Make sure you race vehicle is well prepared and tested over long distances.
- Baja knowledge is critical for chase crew.
- 1300 race miles is a LONG ways. Make sure you have spare parts and the knowledge to repair.
- A chase rig with a larger enclosed trailer is nice for locking everything up at night, but is also harder to maneuver in pit areas and in hotel parking lots.
- Most gas stations are cash only. Bring enough Pesos.
- Satellite phone in chase vehicle and race car can be critical in remote areas.
- If you plan to fly home, make sure to get a tourist Visa at the border or during NORRA registration in Ensenada.
- Sign up early and get hotel reservations before they are all gone (Bay of LA).
- Test your communication equipment in real life race conditions.
- Make sure your GPS is 100% and the co-dog knows how to use it.
- Cell service and WiFi is a huge challenge in many areas.
Beginning in 2010, the National Off Road Racing Association (NORRA) began promoting a rebirth of the NORRA Mexican 1000 rally. The unique off-road rally was co-created by promoter Mike Pearlman to consist of special stages (unlimited speed timed stages in the dirt) linked together by controlled speed liaison / transit sections (highway). The one-of-a-kind, once-a-year, four-day rally includes vintage off-road vehicles and motorcycles, as well as modern desert Rally Raid cars, pre-runner trucks, buggies and motorcycles.
Pearlman’s late father Ed and others established the first running of the NORRA Mexican 1000 off-road rally in November of 1967, which eventually became internationally recognized and evolved into the Baja 1000 in the mid-1970’s.
The 2018 NORRA Mexican 1000 is supported by Yokohama, Method Race Wheels, South Point Hotel Casino, Walker Evans Racing, Bilstein Shock Absorbers, Steel-It, Multitool USA, RIGID, VP Racing Fuels, Timberline, Ensenada Proturismo, Mastercraft/Impact Safety, Cerveceria Transpeninsular, Roganto, Biltwell Inc., Schampa, Racing TraX.com, Satellite Phone Store.com, P.C.I. Race Radios, WARN, Magic Bullet, US Action Trax.com, and many more.
More information can be found online at: www.norra.com