SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal Issue - OCTOBER 2017

SCORE Journal - The Official Publication of SCORE Off-Road Racing

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Page 109 of 225

Rod Hall Celebrates 50 Years of Baja In November 2017, off-road motorsports hall of fame inductee Rod Hall will have competed in every SCORE Baja 1000 race, adding to his incredible racing career By Stephen Romero Few know how to navigate the treacherous courses of the SCORE Baja 1000 better than Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee, Rod Hall. After all, he’s been at it since the inaugural race in 1967. 2017 will mark SCORE’s 50th Anniversary of the Baja 1000 and the 50th Baja 1000 that Hall has competed in. While he’ll be making history, it may also be the last SCORE competition. Hall has an incredible 24 official SCORE Baja class wins and is the only competitor to win the SCORE Baja 1000 Overall Championship in a four-wheel drive vehicle. His list of achievements in off-road desert racing is legendary. Even at the age of 80, and battling the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, Hall is not finished racing the SCORE Baja 1000. He’s suiting up and will compete in the race in the Hall Racing H1 Hummer with his son Chad. “Depending on how I feel the morning of the event, I’d like to start the race in the passenger seat with my son Chad and bring it across the finish line with him beside me.” That sort of thinking is classic Rod Hall. He’s the ever good-natured optimist, who loves to tell stories about racing and other off-road exploits around the world. He’s been described as the everyday man, the average Joe that made a life out of off-road desert racing through sheer grit and determination. Hall’s long connection to the SCORE Baja 1000 is unique and will continue until the 50th is over. Despite concerns over his illness, Hall hangs in there, it’s in his DNA. His eagerness to continue to compete at an age when many retire to a rocking chair is a testament to what makes him such a great champion. The 1967 Mexican 1000 Hall got his first experience with Baja racing at the ’67 Mexican 1000 with Larry Minor, when he was 29 years-old. They took the wheel with of a new Jeep and set out on a course they did not know or even understand. They were just two ordinary four-wheelers that loved the Pismo Beach sand dunes, until the day they heard about a race happening in Mexico. That got their attention and they packed up their short supply of tools, some spare parts, and paid the modest entry fee to become one of 68 teams who would challenge the Baja Peninsula course from Tijuana to La Paz. “We were at the California Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs in Pismo when someone said something about a race from Tijuana to La Paz,” said Hall. “I bought a new Jeep from Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Famer, Brian Chuchua, for $1,700 cash and we went racing.” Before the start of the race, Hall modified the Jeep by adding an additional shock at each wheel, which just made it ride even worse. “We didn’t know about extra wheel travel and better suspension in those days. Brian though wanted to know if I wanted the stock three leaf spring setup or a thirteen leaf spring suspension in the Jeep. Hell, you’d think thirteen leaves would be better, but boy was I wrong. It rode like a wheel barrel.” Bill Hardy from Jeep Communications gave Hall a compass and pointed him due southeast and told him to stay on course and not to stray off a southeast direction. “Hardy assured us that La Paz was southeast of Tijuana, and so we kept the needle pointed that way,” said Hall. They set out from Tijuana and raced with sandwiches made by Hall’s wife and the pocket compass. Hall raced to the halfway point at El Arco when things started to happen, and if not for a Mexican local, they may have never finished the race. “This guy comes up to us as we sat there and said that a guy in a Bronco was only ten minutes ahead,” said Hall. “It was Bill Stroppe, and we were intent on catching him, so we unloaded extra weight like our big toolbox. I hated hearing the tools rattling around.” They raced through the night, and by sunrise Hall finally caught up with Stroppe and Ray Harvey in the Bronco. “We were on a ridge and I saw a dry lake coming up and we just hammered it.” They got ahead of the Bronco and according to Hall, that’s when the Jeep died. He quickly diagnosed the problem as a faulty set of points in the distributor. “We only had a hammer, a crescent wrench, and a Philips screwdriver after we had dumped the entire toolbox out of the Jeep,” said Hall. He needed a flat head screwdriver to fix the problem and waited to see if anyone would come to their rescue. Sure enough, Stroppe came roaring up the road. “We took one look at Stroppe’s Bronco and could tell that he was in worse shape than us, apparently he had rolled it earlier and he was nearly out of oil,” said Hall. “So we traded Stroppe our oil for a flat head screwdriver, and we fixed the problem and took off heading southeast. Stroppe took off one way and we went another. He didn’t want to follow us heading southeast, but we knew better.” Hall and Minor ultimately found the finish line, but he didn’t win the race. It was a point-to-point race that had never been attempted, and although they didn’t win, Hall and Minor became instantly hooked on desert racing. Two years later, they would go on to win the ’69 Mexican 1000 in record time. “That was the beginning of my career,” said Hall. In contrast to today’s SCORE Baja 1000, Hall and Minor raced without a chase team or support crew, GPS or any other assistance other than the occasional fuel stop. “We were in the desert by ourselves, we even had our sleeping bags with us just in case,” said Hall. The winning time in ’67 was 27-hours 38-minutes set by Vic Wilson and Ted Mangels while driving a Meyers Manx VW buggy. What the Race Means “What I really liked about the Baja 1000 was being on my own,” said Hall. “I didn’t have to go too fast and the scenery was incredible. My favorite spot in the race was actually La Paz, I never thought I’d make it there. My best race, however, was in ’69 with Minor. We were racing the Bronco and we won it overall and even beat the motorcycles by ten minutes. But I didn’t get a bigger thrill out of winning overall than just winning my class.” Factory Sponsors Part of the secret to Hall’s lengthy career is his sponsors, the automakers like Jeep and Hummer that pushed Hall to race the SCORE Baja 1000 and SCORE Baja 500. “They always wanted to race Baja and that’s why I’ve been at it for fifty years,” said Hall. “You’re in show business, and you’re representing the manufacturers that support you.” Hall continues to attract big sponsors for his SCORE Baja 1000 efforts and is driving a Hummer sponsored by BF Goodrich, KC HiLITES and MasterCraft Safety in the 2017 event. What becomes of Hall after 50 years in the desert is anyone’s guess, but it wouldn’t surprise his loyal fan base if he does it all over again the following year. Surely his sponsors and everyone in the off-road industry will be thrilled. SJ

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