Historic RacingOff Road

Menzies, Sutherland three-peat as tragedy overshadows Mexican 1000

6 Mins read
Credit: Menzies Motorsports

The 2024 edition of NORRA’s Mexican 1000 was marred by the deaths of competitors Brent Yeadon and Johnny Kaiser, casting a shadow over Steve Menzies and Matt Sutherland‘s overall victories.

Yeadon, the co-driver for Larry Trim‘s 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee (Vintage Short Wheelbase 4×4, driven by Curt Leduc to a Stock Mini class win at the 1993 Baja 1000), suffered a fatal heart attack during the opening stage; although he pulled over to receive medical attention, he died shortly after. Trim immediately withdrew from the race.

“Brent Yeadon was co-founder of TrailReady brand of products in 1997. He was my friend and business partner for thirty-three years,” said Trim. “He was an outdoorsman and adventurer, and this was his 4th Mexican 1000 riding with me. Brent and I built the popular 1969 SC/Rambler AIR James Garner Tribute car together that we raced three times to Cabo and is now part of the Stardust Collection. Brent was devoted to his faith, family, friends, and employees. He will be greatly missed.”

Kaiser lost his life during the penultimate day when the #507 Jake’s 5U Vintage Class 5 buggy (with Rick Paquette) rolled over. Due to the dust kicked up, the #86 Raceco Vintage Open Buggy led by Jay Culbertson was unable to avoid impact. The accident, along with a nearby teacher’s strike, caused a lengthy delay for cars in the area such that NORRA removed the timed section from the final results.

One of the top fabricators in off-road racing, Kaiser built trucks and buggies and even those in between—known as truggies—for a litany of customers including Robbie Pierce and Robby Gordon. He was responsible for many of Gordon’s vehicles including his Trophy Truck, Dakar Rally Hummer, and Stadium Super Truck. After finishing the race twenty-fourth in the Evolution Pro Turbo UTV class, Gordon said he had “very, very mixed feelings” in the wake of Kaiser’s passing.

“That took a lot out of the success we’ve had with SPEED UTV,” he continued. “It’s a major setback. That’s one of my best friends. I have no idea how many all-nighters he did in the shop to make the cars faster. Very good guy, very creative, and definitely going to be missed by us.”

NORRA released the following statement on Sunday: “The NORRA Mexican 1000 is referred to as ‘The Happiest Race On Earth’ but certainly not when we lose such precious individuals in their pursuit of racing and adventure. Everyone at NORRA and the entire off-road racing community extends their condolences to all the families and friends touched by these tragic losses.”

The deaths cast a damper over an otherwise dramatic race. Menzies and his son, reigning Baja 1000 and SCORE International champion Bryce Menzies, battled with the latter’s SCORE rival Larry Roeseler for the overall win in the Pro Cars category. Both teams, racing Trophy Trucks, were separated by less than ten minutes entering the sixth and final day before Menzies pulled away for the victory. The Menzies family has won the 1000 overall every year since 2022.

“To do this three times in a row is unreal,” said Bryce. “This is all about just having fun with my dad, coming down here, enjoying it. It was cool to bring Oren (Anderson, co-driver) down this time. What a day. My dad started out, did awesome, and he hates the tight, twisty stuff. Coming into Cabo, I was like, ‘Come on, dude, you got to finish,’ but he wanted me to finish. Had an awesome run. The guys did an awesome job on prepping the truck. We stayed over 1,300 miles to get down here to Cabo so what a day, what a run.

“It’s pretty special. Being able to switch roles and watch him have a smile on his face and just really enjoy it, it’s what it’s all about. We’ve been doing this for seventeen years as a profession of racing full time. This race has got to be one of my favourite races all year. Come down, just enjoy it, have fun, get to see every part of Baja that’s so beautiful. We love it and can’t wait for next year.”

On the bike side, Sutherland also enjoyed his third win in a row on a KTM 450 Rally; the bike is one of the premier models in rally raid, which NORRA events are loosely styled after. The bike course was designed by Dakar Rally veteran and motorcycle race director Jimmy Lewis, and the fourth day even featured a marathon stage that forbade riders from outside assistance like what is seen in rallies. While Sutherland has never raced the Dakar, he is an Africa Eco Race alumnus and won both the Sonora Rally’s Malle Moto class and the 1000 in consecutive weeks in 2023.

Sutherland beat Alexander Smith by forty-eight minutes. Smith was riding on Ducati’s new DesertX Rally bike, which is partly inspired by their Dakar-tribute DesertX albeit with more enduro and motocross flavours. His Ducati team-mate Steve Kamrad was disqualified for going in the wrong direction during the second day and crashing with Matthew Glade.

Rob MacCachren, another SCORE legend, finished runner-up in Evolution Heavy Metal in his NORRA début. He raced a Jimco pre-runner truck from his SCORE team Fastball Racing, led by boss Bobby Patton. Ford’s Brad Lovell won the class to mark the second straight week a Bronco claimed a North American desert victory of some kind after Vaughn Gittin Jr. in Best In The Desert.

“This was my first NORRA race and I’d have to say I’m impressed,” wrote MacCachren. “The course was challenging at times and the days were long. I saw parts of Baja I hadn’t seen in my 30+ years of racing down here. We broke on day 3 and to know we could catch up and continue racing was such an interesting factor. Let alone being able to race in a truck with a windshield and A/C. Thank you to Bobby for the invite and opportunity. This has been something I have wanted to check off my list for a very long time.”

Desert great Larry Ragland topped the Historic Truck side in “Arnold”, a four-time Baja 1000 winner built by the late Jon Nelson. His main rival in the class, Mark Post‘s iconic Riviera Racing “Black Diamond” truck, was destroyed after crashing into the trailer of a chase truck that went on course and triggered a fire.

Gordon’s SPEED UTV was well represented as a NORRA partner, with fifteen Bandits and El Diablos entered including his son and 2023 NORRA 500 UTV winner Max Gordon. Max, who beat his father for the SST season-opening win at Long Beach a fortnight prior, topped UTV qualifying then placed twenty-seventh in class, reaching the finish without a left-front wheel. Brad Halco led the SPEED UTVs with a seventh.

Wayne Matlock was the top UTV overall, finishing seventh outright in his Polaris.

Raceco buggies enjoyed a 1–2 Vintage Car finish led by Randy Wilson with Jim Greenway three hours back. Greenway previously drove his buggy to the 1984 SCORE 2/1600 overall championship. Other unique faces among these vehicles included Bruno and Sergio Pinillos‘ 1977 Datsun 280Z, which they plan to restore for the Dakar Classic, Sean Barber‘s Scout Race Terra that rolled down a ravine in the final day but managed to reach the finish, Warfighter Made‘s Chenowth Light Strike Vehicle used by the United States military, and Alex Earle‘s 1967 Jeepster Commando that has since become a Hot Wheels diecast. Sonora Rally director Darren Skilton was a team member on Boyd Jaynes‘ Pioneer 4×4-winning Bronco.

Two classes, JeepSpeed 3700 and Recreational Vehicles, failed to see any finishers after the lone entrants in both were forced to retire. Tom Allen led the former in a 2020 Jeep Wrangler that bowed out after two days, while Segismundo Lucas Valdes‘ 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon exited with a mechanical the leg prior.

The Mexican 1000 marked the first race under NORRA’s new era categorisation, with Challenger vehicles now being those built between 1983 and 1992 (previously 1983 to 1988) whereas Vintage eligibility begins in 1993. The second and final race of 2024, the NORRA 500, is scheduled for 24–27.

Class winners


ClassOverall FinishNumberCompetitor of RecordVehicleTime
50+545Eric Simensen2023 KTM 450 XCF-W29:02:50
60+468Larry Engwall2024 Husqvarna 501W26:39:27
Amateur Rally3909Alex Ritz2001 Honda XR650R25:56:45
ATC/ATV22278Lyle Tonelli1986 Honda ATC 250R48:34:06
Pro Rally1423Matt Sutherland2021 KTM 450 Rally21:53:04
Vintage Motos18722Steve Montana1984 Honda XR 500R43:54:55

Pro Cars

ClassOverall FinishNumberCompetitor of RecordVehicleTime
Evolution 610046188Maxime Losier2023 Brenthel 6100 Gen 3.518:16:18
Evolution Heavy Metal158050Brad Lovell2023 Ford Bronco DR19:59:14
Evolution Open UTV29179Kyle Vestermark2024 Can-Am Maverick R21:51:47
Evolution Pre-Run Buggies49129Alonso Sanchez2020 Cheke Guevara Truggy25:36:57
Evolution Pre-Run Trucks411453Clinton Pierce1997 Ford Ranger24:38:54
Evolution Rally Car10415Matt Carricaburu2008 M&TT Mid-Engine43:00:39
Evolution Trophy Lite476036Bruce Anderson2022 Trophy Lite25:27:18
Evolution Ultra 4×4324414Jason Shipman2013 Campbell Enterprises Buggy22:34:39
Evolution Unlimited Buggy3165Dave Mason Jr.2020 Mason Class 1 Unlimited17:41:12
Evolution Unlimited Truck11Steve Menzies2021 Mason Motorsports Ford16:56:21
Evolution Production Turbo UTV22108Gilberto Rodriguez2024 Can-Am Maverick R20:46:2
Evolution 4-Seat UTV71184Jeff Garnica2019 Can-Am Maverick X330:49:36
Evolution Production Naturally Aspirated UTV31444Seth Egge2017 Yamaha YXZ100R SS22:32:38
Evolution Pro 2000 UTV/Class 1071871Wayne Matlock2024 Polaris RZR Pro R18:37:46
Evolution Showroom Stock Late Model66725Jamie Groves2024 Ford Bronco 2.3L28:54:42
Historic Buggy65156Aaron Burruss2000 Jimco Class 128:51:50
Historic Truck and Truggy2180Larry Ragland1995 Chevrolet 150020:41:53
Vintage 4-Cylinder Buggies23224Brian Coats1995 Mirage Class 120:53:17
Vintage 6-Cylinder Buggies1011509Daron Rarden1965/2016 Volkswagen Baja Bug42:00:15
Vintage Class 1/2-1600611635Ruben Rodriguez2021 Romo 12-160027:46:12
Vintage Class 1292516Tino Santana37:15:17
Vintage Class 525521Hap Kellogg1957 Volkswagen Class 5 Unlimited21:17:36
Vintage Open Buggies601070George Marsh2002 Marsh Made Buggy27:45:22
Vintage Open Trucks36303Dave Sykes1966 Ford Bronco23:31:43

Classic Cars

ClassNumberCompetitor of RecordVehicleTime
Challenger 4×413David Orzolek1989 Jeep YJ Islander42:57:52
Challenger Buggy138Randy Wilson1988 Raceco20:29:43
Challenger Car500Tom Bird1974 Porsche Challenger 91425:34:15
Challenger Truck759Travis Dutemple1987 Toyota Pickup33:10:04
Evolution Class 71007127Scott Phipps1996 Ford Ranger25:00:29
Evolution JeepSpeed 3700N/ANo FinishersN/ADNF
Evolution Recreational VehicleN/ANo FinishersN/ADNF
Legend 4×435Chris Greenwood1972 Ford Bronco27:13:04
Legend Buggy1601Jim Greenway1980 Raceco 2/160023:36:30
Legend Car504Rich Minga1981 Volkswagen 196240:22:48
Legend Truck800Dave Westhem1979 GMC K1541:51:33
Pioneer 4×426Boyd Jaynes1968 Ford Bronco27:22:06
Pioneer Buggy9Jon Steinhilber1965 Meyers Manx29:41:42
Pioneer Truck866Chris Sullivan1966 Ford F10029:05:06
Vintage 4-Cylinder Truck468Jose Julio Santibañez1986 Toyota 4Runner51:58:42
Vintage 6-Cylinder Truck1719Chris Nissley1989 Jeep Cherokee28:19:48
Vintage Class 111131Mario Rojas1970 Volkswagen Beetle24:36:35
Vintage Military Vehicle22Robert Blanton1988 Chenowth DR3 Light Strike Vehicle27:52:02
Vintage Open Production Car719Bruce Galien1973 Volkswagen Type 18143:24:36
Vintage Open Truck 4×4702Eli Yee1993 Ford26:02:12
Vintage Open Truck Rear Leafs1403Michael Tuba1980 Ford F-15025:11:55
Vintage Short Wheelbase 4×4383Steve McCrossan1975 Ford Bronco27:06:19
Vintage Stock Production Car969Sterifcan Ozcan1993 Porsche 91135:05:50
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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