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Minga wins NORRA Mexican 1000

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

Rich Minga won the Legend Buggies class at the Yokohama NORRA Mexican 1000 Rally race April 30-May 4.

The actual racing distance was 973 miles. Minga covered that in 26 hours, 45 minutes, and 40 seconds. The Fallbrook driver placed 86th among racers in all of the Mexican 1000 classes.

"I'm really blessed because I've raced four NORRAs, one 500 and three 1,000s, and I've won every one of them," Minga said.

Minga first raced in the National Off-Road Racing Association competition in 2021. That year he teamed with drag racing legend Don Prudhomme to drive a Can-Am Maverick Turbo utility task vehicle in the Evolution Stock Turbo UTV class.

"I've never had my own car. I always drive for somebody else," Minga said. This year he drove a Sandwinder owned by Mack Johnson, who lives in Colorado. "I worked on the car a lot and got it prepared and drove the car in the race," Minga said.

The preparation did not include practice on the course, but the pre-race activities allowed Minga to have some time behind the wheel of the Sandwinder. "I was able to drive it in town a little bit," he said.

The Yokohama NORRA Mexican 1000 Rally includes rally portions which are not included in the racing time. "You drive a lot more hours than that," Minga said. The rally included 318.6 transit miles along with the 973 racing miles. "It's over five days," Minga said.

The race portion began April 30 in Santo Tomas. The racers drove 150.3 racing miles and 64.6 transit miles that day they concluded in San Felipe. The May 1 travel from San Felipe to Bahia de Los Angeles had 154.7 racing miles and 82.5 transit miles.

On May 2, the 313.0 racing miles and 87 transit miles took them from Bahia de Los Angeles to Loreto. The 230.9 racing miles and 53.3 transit miles on May 3 were from Loreto to La Paz. The final 124.1 racing and 31.2 transit miles May 4 brought the participants to San Jose del Cabo.

Minga has also driven for Sol Saltzman, who lives in Colorado. This year, Saltzman and Johnson drove in the Pioneer Buggies class. Johnson asked Minga to drive the Sandwinder. "I was just so happy," Minga said. "It was such a legendary car."

The Sandwinder was built by Don Rountree in 1970. Mel Tyree raced the Sandwinder in the 1970s. "It hadn't been driven in 40 years," Minga said, "We worked on it a little bit in the shop; it all worked out good."

The car was race-ready for a 1970s-era off-road competition. "I wanted to do it exactly like they did it in the 70s. I wanted to pay respect for the people who forged the way for us," Minga said, "I did it with no radio, only an intercom; I did it with an open-faced helmet and a pair of goggles."

NORRA has separate classes for the Pioneer Era from 1969 to 1975 and the Legend Era from 1976 to 1982. "My car is supposed to race in the Pioneer class, but Sol Saltzman was running," Minga said. "They made me race in a class above what my car was best for."

Saltzman and Johnson had a time of 33:19:15, including 25:03 in penalty assessments, to finish second in the Pioneer Buggies class and 106th overall.

After the first day, Minga and his crew worked on the buggy for about four hours including changes to the suspension. "I raced it for the next four days and didn't have to work on it much," he said. "The guy did a really good job preparing it."

Jim Greenway finished second in the Legend Buggies class with a time of 33:34:37 including 4:39 in penalty assessments. Greenway was the 105th overall finisher.

Greenway drove a 1980 Raceco 2/1600. "We used to race against each other in the 80s. He's fast and good," Minga said. "He's old like me, but he's still fast."

During the first day, Minga consumed 5:03:25 of racing clock time and was 120th overall while Greenway's time of 3:59:52 placed him 70th overall. After the second day, Greenway's cumulative time of 7:38:09 including the 4:39 penalty placed him 58th overall while Minga was 106th overall with a cumulative time of 9:34:25.

"At the end of Day 3, I started leading and Day 4 and 5 I kept the lead," Minga said. Greenway broke during the May 2 racing. "He lost so much time he could never catch up," Minga said.

Minga was 92nd overall after the third day with a cumulative time of 17:12:45. His cumulative time of 23:32:01 placed him 90th after the fourth day.

Greenway was 104th overall at the end of May 3 with a cumulative time of 26:18:49. "On Day 4 he tried to catch me and he rolled the car," Minga said. "On Day 5 he had a hurt car, so he just cruised in."

Minga focused on his own class rather than his overall position. "I just needed to cruise once I had the lead," he said. He still gained four overall positions on May 4. "I made it through half of the field or more," he said.

"It's all about having fun," Minga said. "You can see why they call it the funnest race on Earth, because it really is."

Minga is a lifelong San Diego County resident who grew up in the San Carlos area of San Diego and moved to Fallbrook from Lemon Grove in 1995.

"My goal was not to hurt the car, to finish the race, and then I ended up winning and got a very respectable 86th overall," Minga said.


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