Baja California is a hub for desert racing, and NORRA is one of those injecting a bit of rally flavour into the region with its multi-day races Mexican 1000 and NORRA 500. The sanctioning body wants to further deliver this experience in 2024 by naming Dakar Rally veteran Jimmy Lewis as motorcycle race director. As part of his responsibilities, Lewis will design the course for bikes that emphasises what NORRA calls “easy navigation to rival off-road riding found anywhere in the world.”
He runs the Jimmy Lewis Off-Road Riding School in Pahrump, Nevada, which teaches the essentials of riding off-road bikes along with rally-oriented classes like navigation. Many top American racers have attended the school to hone their skills including reigning Dakar Rally champion Ricky Brabec, Andrew Short, and Sara Price; Price, who won a Dakar stage in the SSV category in January, specifically singled out training with Lewis when she spoke with The Checkered Flag last spring. The school also maintains a partnership with NORRA, providing both online courses and free training.
Lewis himself more than lives up to the school’s reputation as well, having enjoyed success across virtually every form of off-road motorcycle racing. In 1991, he and Team USA won the FIM International Six Days Enduro’s Junior Trophy for the Americans’ first victory at the legendary event since 1973. Seven years later, he conquered the Baja 1000 bike overall.
As a BMW factory rider, Lewis entered his first Paris–Dakar Rally in 1996. The following year, he scored a stage win and was the best single-cylinder bike finisher in fourth. Despite missing the overall podium that race, he finally broke through in 2000 when he placed third overall to become just the second American podium finisher at the Dakar, while also winning the two-cylinder subcategory. A month later, he won the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, a current round of the World Rally-Raid Championship, and remains its only outright winner from the United States. Lewis’ final Dakar in 2001 ended with a crash.
Although his competitive days have since come to an end, he is helping others break into the off-road racing world themselves. He also works as the course director for the Rebelle Rally and King of the Motos. His contributions earned him the 2017 Impact Award from the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.
“I want riders to have a stepping stone into rally raid events like the Nevada Rally provided for me as a young racer,” said Lewis. “I’ve never forgotten the Baja terrain from thirty years ago. The NORRA Mexican 1000 will embody that.”
For 2024, the bike classes will be divided into Pro Rally, Amateur Rally, and Sportsman. The Pro and Amateur Rally classes will use roadbooks akin to traditional rally raids, while Sportsman riders utilise GPS navigation and compete on a separate course. Each of these divisions are further split depending on rider type such as Ironman for those racing solo and teams.