It would be relatively easy for any tire company to take a world-class event like the NORRA Mexican 1000 and simply add its name to it in the interest of brand recognition and product validation. For Yokohama, however, its title sponsorship of the flagship NORRA event goes far deeper. Theirs is a unique and enduring partnership.
As more than 250 teams prepare to tackle next week’s 10th running of the annual trans-Baja rally affectionately known as “the Happiest Race on Earth,” both Yokohama’s desert racing past and present will be on full display, along with a full slate of brand-activation activities.
Famous for its retro vibe and emphasis on fun competition, the Yokohama Tire-backed NORRA Mexican 1000 is a vintage-themed rally that commences on Sunday, April 28, in Ensenada, Baja Mexico, and finishes 1,256 miles later on Thursday, May 2, on the beaches of San Jose Del Cabo.
“This is the third year we’re the title sponsor, and it’s been great,” said Andrew Briggs, Yokohama Tire’s vice president of marketing and product management. “Besides being a classic Baja off-road rally, the Yokohama NORRA Mexican 1000 is a blast for racers and enthusiasts, and an excellent venue to spotlight our GEOLANDAR tire line.”
Yokohama’s off-road legacy began in the early 1980s with the introduction of its Super Digger III, a tire well suited to the lightweight buggy classes of the day. Partnering with several of the top teams of the era, Yokohama took home many class and overall race wins, along with season championships.
Still available in its classic form, the Super Digger remains popular with racers today.
By 1989, Yokohama was teamed with Toyota and Bosch to create off-road racing’s first true factory “super team” consisting of five independent teams running Toyota powerplants and vehicles all in the now iconic red-and-white-striped Yokohama livery — Jim Stiles (Class 1 buggy); Jim and Lisa Greenway (Class 2); Craig Watkins and Greg Aronson (Class 10); Malcolm Vinje and Mark Hanson (Class 7S); and Gregg Symonds (Class 7 4×4).
At last year’s NORRA race, Yokohama’s new GEOLANDAR M/T tire was showcased on the winning 1968 Ford Bronco, nicknamed “Caballo Del Diablo” (“Devil’s Horse” in English). Driven by owner Boyd Jaynes and Brian Godfrey, the 2018 victory was the team’s sixth NORRA Mexican 1000 class victory and fourth consecutive win in the Pioneer 4×4 category.
Along with the Caballo Del Diablo effort, the Yokohama flag will be carried proudly into this year’s Mexican 1000 battle by a variety of teams and classes including Jim and Lisa Greenway in their original No. 1601 1980 Raceco-VW (nicknamed “Flipper”) in Legend Buggy; Rudy Townsley in a historic No. 75 Chenowth-VW (Pioneer Buggy); the No. 229 1978 Chenowth 2000 of Bob Lawrence (Legend Buggy); the No. 207 1979 Chenowth 2000 of Mario Alesi (Challenger Buggy); and the No. 61 Mahindra Roxor entered by Ned and Kat Bacon (Pioneer 4×4).
Yokohama will also have a major presence in NORRA’s growing UTV categories thanks to the first-ever Mexican 1000 appearance of Kristen and Wayne Matlock in their No. 7154 factory Polaris RZR XP4 (Stock Turbo UTV category).
“NORRA is proud of all our corporate relations, but perhaps none more than the one we enjoy with Yokohama Tire,” explained NORRA President Mike Pearlman. “They have supported Baja racing for decades, and their partnership with us is great for our racers and the event itself.”