Off Road

Steve Menzies, Matt Sutherland win Mexican 1000

4 Mins read
Credit: Bryce Menzies

The NORRA Mexican 1000 is like a cousin to the SCORE International Baja 1000. Nicknamed the “Happiest Race on Earth”, the five-day adventure from Ensenada to San José del Cabo was anything but happy for those like Rhys Millen and the Mason family, yet it certainly was for Steve Menzies and Matt Sutherland. Although Mark Post was the first to reach the final destination with Menzies right behind, Menzies had the faster overall time to take the Cars victory. Sutherland dominated the Bikes and staved off a stiff challenge from Daniel Bartolucci for the win there.

Menzies’ Mason Motorsports truck recorded a total time of eighteen hours, thirty-six minutes, forty-two seconds. His son Bryce, a decorated desert racer, only piloted approximately 300 of the 1,294.4 miles as the elder Menzies did the rest. Bryce, who has long regarded his father as his inspiration, described the victory as the “best win I think I’ve ever had in my racing career so far. Just to witness this, being in the heli, chasing down the whole coast. I won’t forget this for the rest of my life. We’ve been fighting for this peninsula run, whether it’s Baja 1000 or NORRA, for twelve years now. To come down here and pull off a win with this guy behind the wheel is special.”

“It’s such a great sport and a great event,” said Steve Menzies after the fifth and final day. “Today was so much fun. We were up on the cliffs watching the ocean, oh my god, that was so unbelievable. Had a great time. […] I’ve tried to talk Bryce into riding with me, but he gets a little nervous.”

The Cars category was dominated by Millen and Menzies early on as they combined to win four of the first five special stages. The exception was the fourth on Tuesday (Day #2; each day consisted of two stages), when the Masons led by Dave Sr. and Jr. claimed the run from El Huerfanito to Agua de Higuera; however, the Masons retired two days later when Martin Christensen clipped a rock which destroyed the right rear and transmission. Post entered the conversation when he won SS2 on Day #3 before leap-frogging Millen, who suffered a broken rear radius rod after a loose rock was kicked up by one of his tyres, with another second-stage triumph the next day.

As Kristen Matlock swept the final day’s stages to become the Mexican 1000’s first UTV stage winner and the first woman to win an overall stage in NORRA history, Post beat Menzies to San José del Cabo but both his SS2 and overall times were too far back to surpass him. Post’s overall was 18:55:32, approximately eighteen minutes and fifty seconds behind Menzies.

Much of the top overall runners were in the Evolution era for modern vehicles. By contrast, Post’s effort comes in a 1992 Ford F-150, which falls under Historic Truck and Truggy for vehicles of at least twenty years old. The Vintage entries, where 1989 is the latest production year permitted, Kevin Smith‘s 1985 Chenowth DR2 was tenth overall. Colin McLeMore (fifty-third overall in a 1975 Ford F-100), Chris Greenwood (fifty-eighth, 1972 Ford Bronco), and Boyd Jaynes (seventy-first, 1968 Ford Bronco) respectively topped the Challenge (1983–1988), Legend (1976–1982), and Pioneer (1967–1975) eras.

Credit: STEEL-IT Coatings

Although they began and finished in the same location as their four-wheeled counterparts, the Bikes ran a different route that deviated on Day #2 as they went to Guerrero Negro rather than Bahía de los Ángeles before meeting up again in Loreto. Sutherland set the tone early by winning two of the first day’s three stages with Bartolucci in tow. Although Bartolucci closed the gap with two victories in the final three stages, Sutherland won the last for a total of five stage triumphs and the overall. He set a time of 22:10:08, over half an hour better than Bartolucci’s 22:42:05.

Other Bike stage winners included Ben Shuckburgh and Micah Smith, who respectively finished seventh and tenth overall. Shuckburgh prevented a Sutherland Day #1 sweep by taking the last stage followed by the first on Day #3. Smith kicked off the second day with a win in SS1.

Curiously, perhaps the biggest incident of the week came in the Slow Baja Safari category, one of two non-competitive Safari divisions, when “Big Oly” spun and flipped onto its roof before it flipped back over and continued; Big Oly is a legendary 1969 Ford Bronco that was owned by the great Parnelli Jones, won the Baja 1000 in 1971 and 1972, sold in 2021 for $1.87 million by the Meyers Manx company, and served as the “car grand marshal” for the Mexican 1000. Luckily for the team, the Bronco only suffered slight body damage that can be repaired.

The Safari category, which consists of Slow Baja Safari and Safari Rapido, has rules separate from the racing-focused side, emphasising sightseeing and enjoyment over speed and competition. Section 15.2.2 of the Safari rulebook even proclaims, “The spirit of this category is to have fun and stay together as a group while experiencing the best Baja has to offer in scenery and remote beauty.” Adhering to this, vehicles are limited to sixty miles per hour in the dirt (a rule that is enforced with threat of disqualification for exceeding it) and drivers may skip challenging sections of the course. Conversely, this laid-back environment also means safety equipment like helmets, firesuits, and window nets are not required, which raised some eyebrows following Big Oly’s wreck.

While no “official results” are kept for Safari, a 1989 Porsche 911 driven by Serifcan Ozcan in Slow Baja Safari was the first four-wheeler in general to arrive at the finish.

Top 10 overall results

Full results, including stage-by-stage finishes, are available at Rally Scoring and the NORRA website.

Cars

FinishNumberDriver of RecordClassTotal Time
147Steve MenziesEvolution Unlimited Truck18:36:42
23Mark PostHistoric Truck and Truggy18:55:32
367Rhys MillenEvolution Unlimited Buggy19:01:47
41871Wayne MatlockEvolution Open UTV19:18:38
57011Alexis VeraEvolution Prerun Buggies19:41:56
6952R.J. AndersonEvolution Modified Turbo UTV19:53:13
7100Larry RaglandEvolution Unlimited Buggy19:58:18
81086Glenn SchererEvolution Limited Engine Buggy20:04:56
92998P.J. JonesEvolution Modified Turbo UTV20:25:12
10211Kevin SmithVintage 4-Cylinder Buggy20:38:16

Bikes

FinishNumberDriver of RecordClassTotal Time
1423Matt SutherlandModern Open22:10:08
2110Daniel Bartolucci50+ Vintage Dudes22:42:05
381Matthew WichgersModern Open23:22:35
496Nick TorchioModern Lites23:32:26
595Sterling ButlerModern Open23:43:28
655Matthew GladeModern Open24:19:07
7101Ben Shuckburgh50+ Vintage Dudes24:27:45
8336Bruce Anderson60+ Vintage Dudes24:29:49
9122Yvan Perroud50+ Vintage Dudes24:47:18
10427Brian LynnSuper Vintage24:56:03
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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