Author Archives: Barbara Rainey

Bobby Ferro

Competition – Off-Road Racing

In 1973 automotive journalist Hal Higdon published his book “Finding the Groove”.  This book was based on 27 interviews of the greatest race car drivers of the time and included drivers like Mario Andretti, Richard Petty, Don Garlits, Bobby and Al Unser, and Don Prudhomme.  Selected to represent off-road racing was Bobby Ferro.  How did he earn this distinction?

It all started in 1963 at Bud Ekins’ Triumph motorcycle shop in Sherman Oaks, California. (Bud Ekins was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979.)  Ferro started working at the shop as a mechanic when he was just 16 years old.  That same year, racing a Triumph Tiger Cub, 16-year-old Ferro entered his first race, a Checkers MC District 37 event, where he finished 109th.

Bobby Ferro racing a 100 Lap TT at Ascot, 1970

In 1970 Ferro purchased a bare Funco Wampus Kitty chassis from Ekins and built the car himself, entering his homebuilt rig in the 1970 Baja 500. By the halfway point, he was leading overall on time, but a rollover put him back to 4th at the finish. Not a bad showing for his first race on four wheels. Ferro went on to enter the 1970 Mexican 1000, where he finished 2nd.

In 1971, before there was an Ironman award, the NORRA Mexican 1000 required a driver change at the halfway point. Ferro petitioned NORRA to let him drive solo. Ferro got the go-ahead, and proceeded to win the race, becoming the first driver to ever solo the 1000.

Ferro’s performance got the attention of Scott McKenzie (ORMHOF Class of 2005), who asked him to join the Sandmaster team. Driving a Funco SS1 manufactured by Gil George (ORMHOF Class of 2007), the Sandmaster team with Ferro behind the wheel was the team to beat in off-road racing throughout the 1970s. After McKenzie sold Sandmaster, Ferro moved to the Modern Motors Team and later would be reunited with McKenzie at the Tracy Valenta (ORMHOF Class of 2016) Party Ice team.

During the 1970s Bobby Ferro would become one of the most dominant racers our sport has ever seen, with twenty-five 4-wheel overall wins. There wasn’t a major race that Ferro didn’t win, including two Mexican 1000s, four Baja 500s, two Mint 400s, three California 400s, and the 1974 SCORE Championship.

L-R: Team owner Tracy Valenta, Bobby Ferro, race organizer Sal Fish (ORMHOF Class of 2006) and Judy Smith (ORMHOF Class of 2008) at the 1978 Mexicali 350 awards ceremony.

In 1976 one of Bobby’s sponsors suggested letting a relatively unknown driver share driving duties at the Baja 500. Ferro agreed to give the driver a shot, and the two of them went on to overall the race, helping to launch the driver’s career. That driver’s name?  Ivan Stewart (ORMHOF Class of 2006).

Ferro broke new ground when he asked journalist and racer Judy Smith (ORMHOF Class of 2008) to race the 1978 Mexicali 350 with him in a two-seat buggy.  While not an unknown commodity – Judy had been the first woman to solo the 1000 in 1972 – not too many drivers were looking for women as their co-riders. Bobby Ferro respected Judy as a smart and tough woman who could handle it.  That fact that she weighed 90 pounds didn’t hurt either, and the two went on to a historic overall victory in the Tracy Valenta Party Ice Class 2 Funco. 

Bobby Ferro (right) and Johnny Johnson (ORMHOF Class of 2010) on Ensenada’s Walk of Fame. The duo won the 1973 Baja 1000.

Besides winning, Ferro was also a strong safety advocate. His day job as a Hollywood stunt man made him especially interested in safety.  After seeing Sprint car drivers killed or seriously injured and losing arms in rollovers, Ferro started racing with leather straps tied to his arms which he later replaced with window nets. Ferro petitioned race organizers to make arm restraints and window nets mandatory. He persisted until the improved safety measures were put into effect.

Steve Morris

Recreational – Four Wheeling

Steve Morris has been a pioneer and advocate for the Recreational Four Wheeling community since the purchase of his first Jeep in 1954, a Willys CJ2A.

His passion for off-road started as family recreation, then moved into business as an employee of the Jeep Corporation in Detroit, and later as a Jeep dealer.  Morris continued to follow his passion for off-road, moving into the role of advocate for off-road recreation and public land access for California and Nevada.

Looking for comradery, Morris helped form the Sacramento Jeepers in 1956. The club still contributes to Off Highway Vehicle access and maintenance, and hosts a CPR/First Aid class for its members.

Morris saw a need for an agency that would protect and represent the rights and needs of the off-road community. He was instrumental in the development and formation of the California Association of 4WD Clubs (Cal4Wheel) in 1959.  He served on the board as the first Cal4Wheel president and helped develop the by-laws that the organization still follows today.  The Cal4Wheel Win-A-Jeep promotion is a major fundraiser since the early days of the organization that continues to this day.

Steve’s love of the Sierra Nevada mountains led him to help start the Lake Tahoe Hi-Lo’s club in 1966.  The Lake Tahoe Hi-Lo’s contribute to the community as volunteers and adopting trails in the Tahoe National Forest and surrounding areas near South Lake Tahoe, including the Long Lake Trail at the base of the Cadillac Hill on the Rubicon Trail. Steve is still active and sits on the Rubicon Oversight Committee (ROC) meetings in El Dorado County, California.

There is a spot on the Rubicon Trail at the top of Cadillac Hill called ‘Morris Rock’ where Steve and his wife would camp out every Saturday night, offering a helping hand to vehicles who were having trouble navigating the challenging trail by winching them through the difficult spot.

In 1985 a group of like-minded individuals banded together and purchased the 400 acres known as Rubicon Springs, just three days before it was going to be taken over by the United States Forest Service.  By purchasing the property, the landowners preserved public access through the Rubicon trail system.  Morris is currently one of twelve owners of the Rubicon Springs property and is still called on from time to time for his knowledge of the history, and his experience, of fighting for public land rights.

Steve Morris has been a mentor to many people who are now leaders in the protection of OHV rights and access. He is the perfect example of how to conduct oneself with dignity and respect for others. Although soft spoken, Morris has led many meetings, coordinated maintenance efforts and led the way to protect OHV rights.  Each year during the Jeepers Jamboree, an event he has attended for more than 60 years, Morris gives a presentation to attendees on the history of the Rubicon Trail and the need for those who enjoy OHV recreation to get involved in preserving public access to public lands.

Steve Morris participated in many early Jeep events, including the first-ever competition at Pismo Beach.  He was a pit crew member at The Mint 400 in Las Vegas and organized and competed in early Hill Climbs and Jeep Pulls in South Lake Tahoe hosted by the Lake Tahoe Hi-Lo’s, the club he helped get started in 1966.

When the Friends of the Rubicon (FOTR) was founded in 2001, Steve Morris was there, attending meetings and donating countless hours of his time.  ORMHOF inductee Del Albright (Class of 2014) says of Morris, “He has always been the first one to raise his hand and say, I can help.”

In 2016 Steve Morris was recognized for more than 50 years of service to Cal4Wheel. 

Editor’s Note: Steve Morris learned of his induction into the Hall of Fame in the early summer of 2019. Prior to the formal Induction Ceremony, Steve passed away during a visit to the Rubicon Springs, the place he loved more than anywhere on earth. Steve’s son Rick, was present at the Induction Ceremony to honor his father as a Legacy inductee of the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Frank Arciero

Competition – Off-Road Racing

Frank ‘Butch’ Arciero Jr is one of the most decorated drivers that has ever been involved in the sport of off-road racing.  Arciero excelled at short course and desert racing, on two wheels and four, and he enjoys competing to this day.

Like many off-road racers, Arciero’s love for desert racing began on a motorcycle in the early 1970s. In 1974, he and his brother Al ventured into the 4-wheel vehicles, which is where Frank would make his mark.

Beyond his success and frequent trips to the winner’s circle, Arciero counts the lifelong friendships he has made throughout his career in off-road as one of his greatest accomplishments.

The Arciero family has racing in their blood. Inductee Frank ‘Butch’ Arciero Jr’s late father, Frank Sr, immigrated from Italy in 1949 at the age of 14, realizing the American dream through a successful construction company, and discovering a passion for Ferraris and fine wine along the way.  Inductee Arciero’s son, Ryan Arciero, is a third-generation racer, currently campaigning the Levi’s Trophy Truck in Baja and the U.S.

Frank ‘Butch’ Arciero Jr celebrates a win at the NORRA Mexican 1000 with his son Ryan.

Aside from his accomplished racing career, Frank ‘Butch’ Arciero Jr was instrumental in advancing the sport of off-road through technical achievements.  Arciero Racing was one of the first teams to introduce bypass shocks into stadium short course racing.  Arciero was instrumental in bringing Toyota/TRD engines and support to the buggy class, and helped Chevrolet develop their 4-wheel drive for desert racing. In addition to Toyota and Chevrolet, Arciero has developed lifelong relationships with companies including BFGoodrich, Bilstein, and Bosch, just to name a few.

Generous and humble are words that have been used to describe Frank ‘Butch’ Arciero Jr.  There are many stories of Arciero’s willingness to help his fellow competitors, loaning engines, transmissions, or whatever it took to get them back out on the course.  Arciero’s generosity extends far beyond the sport of off-road.  We will never know the full extent of his charitable good deeds, which he does quietly and without fanfare. And that’s exactly how he wants it.

Frank ‘Butch’ Arciero Jr Career Highlights, Off-Road:

– 40+ trophy finishes on a motorcycle

– 40+ off-road wins, including The Mint 400, SCORE World Championships, Nevada 400, Baja 500, and Baja 1000

– Gave Toyota their first Unlimited Class win at the 1985 SCORE Baja 500

– 85+ top 5 finishes

– 1980 AMSA Class 1 Points Champion

– 1981 HDRA Class 1 Points Champion

– 1981 HDRA Class 10 Points Champion

– 1984 HDRA Drivers Championship

Frank Arciero Career Highlights, Short Course:

– 50+ wins

– 125+ top 5 finishes

– 1984, 1987, and 1991 Mickey Thompson Drivers Championship

– More wins than any other stadium racer upon his retirement from short course racing in 1993

– Only driver to win a main event in three different classes

Robby Gordon

Competition – Off-Road Racing

Robby Gordon is one of the most versatile drivers of the modern era. He has won in just about every type of car racing, including NASCAR, IMSA, Trans-Am and IndyCar. But it’s in off-road racing where he’s really made — and continues to make — his mark. As a driver, Gordon won the Baja 1000 three times (1987, 1989, 2006), the Baja 500 four times (1989, 1990, 2005, 2013) and captured seven SCORE championships (five of them consecutive, from 1986 to 1990, and again in 1996 and 2009) and two Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group stadium racing titles.

In 2007, while still racing NASCAR full-time Gordon became the first American to win a Stage in the Legendary Dakar Rally. Gordon has competed in “the world’s most difficult race” representing the United States 14-times, claiming 10 stages wins and a third place overall.

In 2012, he founded the Stadium Super Trucks series. Based on Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee Mickey Thompson’s concept, the series began there but has evolved as a popular support event at major road races in the U.S. and abroad. The Super Trucks put on a spectacular show, soaring over jumps and banging fenders in front of awestruck crowds. With Stadium Super Trucks, Gordon has brought off-road racing to a whole new audience and introduced a new form of motorsports to the world. As a driver-owner, Gordon himself has won the series title twice (2013, 2014) while claiming 19 race wins.

Robby Gordon surrounded by fans and media in Dakar.  A true international superstar, Robby Gordon brings global attention to the sport of off-road racing.

In addition to his racing, Gordon is one of the most influential people in the off-road industry. In 2018, he launched a UTV he designed exclusively for Arctic Cat/Textron. The much-anticipated Wildcat XX design was based off the years of Gordon’s experience and knowledge in off-road racing. With positive reviews and results the Wildcat XX was voted UTV of the Year for 2018. 

Robby is the son of racing legend Bob Gordon, an early pioneer in the sport of off-road. Bob Gordon was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Legacy Inductee in 2017.  Bob and Robby are only the second father and son Inductees in Hall of Fame history. Robby’s son, Max, is the third generation in the Gordon off-road racing family. Max became the youngest driver to ever compete and finish the Baja 1000 in 2017 at the age of 9.

Robby Gordon Career Highlights:

– 19-time Stadium SUPER Trucks Winner

– Seven-time SCORE International Champion, 1986-90, 1996, 2009

– BITD Grand Champion, 2012

– Three-time Baja 1000 winner, 1987, 1989, 2006

– Four-time Baja 500 winner, 1989, 1990, 2005, 2013

– First American to win Stage in Dakar Rally, 2007

– Ten Dakar Rally stage victories

– 3rd place overall Finish in Dakar Rally, 2009

– Won very first off-road race entered Vegas to Reno 500

– Two-time Mickey Thompson Grand National Sport Truck Series Champion

– One Central Europe Rally Special win, 2008 CER Stage 5

– X Games Austin Silver Medal Winner in Off-Road Truck, 2015

– X Games Austin Bronze Medal Winner in Off-Road Truck, 2014

Other Notable Accomplishments:

– Four consecutive class wins in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona

– Three consecutive class wins in the 12 Hours of Sebring

– Three NASCAR Monster Cup Victories: New Hampshire Motor Speedway, 2001; Sonoma Raceway, 2003; Watkins Glen, 2003

– NASCAR Xfinity Series Win: Richmond International Raceway, 2004

– First driver to sweep both NASCAR Road Courses in the same year

– Two CART Victories, Phoenix International Raceway, 1995; and Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, 1995

– Indianapolis 500: Three top-five and five top-10 finishes in 10 starts

– Attempted the “Double Duty” four times, racing the Indy 500 and Coca Cola 600 in the same day (1 of 4 drivers)

Lynn Chenowth

Pioneer – Industry

Lynn Chenowth is a legendary off-road industry pioneer and chassis builder, whose open-wheel creations were a driving force behind some of the sport’s biggest victories and greatest drivers.

In the 1970s, it was Chenowth who helped usher in the development of true tube frame off-road vehicles. The sport was quickly growing and evolving, and Chenowth Racing Products was ready to meet the need.  With a mass production approach to building affordable chassis and products, Chenowth helped bring the sport of recreational off-roading to the masses.

Over 25,000 Chenowth-built race, recreational and sand buggy frames were built by the company and shipped around the world, many assembled in home garages by mechanically inclined enthusiasts. Chenowth took a southern California-based lifestyle and shared it around the country – and the world.

Lynn’s Chenowth “Wedge,” Chenowth 1000 and Chenowth 2000 race cars all became winners in the 1970s, pushing the envelope of speed and reliability. Chenowth also designed the five-link rear suspended Chenowth Magnum short-course cars that dominated short course racing around the country for a decade, including the Mickey Thompson stadium series. Although he eventually sold Chenowth Racing Products in 1980 to fellow San Diego resident Mike Thomas, Lynn continued his role in the development of Chenowth desert and short course cars, the Chenowth Mini-Mag, as well as the company’s ventures into Yamaha and military vehicles.

Lynn’s expertise in the development of vehicles, drive trains and suspensions led him to a unique relationship with Yamaha Motor Company. Under his partnership with Yamaha Motor Company, Chenowth used his expertise in the development of vehicles, drive trains and suspensions to help innovate a series of vehicles, many incorporating Yamaha V-max engines and Chenowth rear a-arm technology. Eventually the relationship led the industry’s original UTVs.

Factory-backed and private Chenowth cars have taken many of the sport’s greatest drivers to off-road racing’s biggest victories. The list includes ORMHOF inductees Johnny Johnson, Ivan Stewart, Corky and Mark McMillin, Bob and Robby Gordon, Frank ‘Butch’ Arciero Jr, and Rob MacCachren.

Chenowth retired in 2017 and sold his company, Pulltarps Manufacturing, with the goal of returning to the fun of off-road racing.  He’s off to a good start, with the foundation of the seaside Chenowth Legacy Lodge and Museum in Baja, Mexico, just south of San Felipe.  Chenowth is also working with a team of former factory craftsmen to build a new Chenowth racing chassis.

David Higgins

Competition – Rally

It took a driver from a small island country in the Irish Sea to help put Rally back on the map in the United States.  David Higgins was born in 1972 on the Isle of Man, the country famous for motorsports. David’s grandparents and parents have all been successful rally drivers, and David’s brother Mark is an accomplished rally driver in his own right. His children started kart racing and they have been successful, winning many local races.

Many people are unaware that Rally is a category at ORMHOF, something that Higgins’ induction is sure to change.  David Higgins joins John Buffum as a Rally inductee in the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame, and deservedly so. Buffum was inducted fifteen years ago, in 2004. While Buffum was dominant throughout the 1970s and 80s, retiring at the end of his undefeated 1987 year in the United States, Higgins has set the 21st Century Rally world on fire matching Buffum’s fete of the perfect undefeated season, winning all eight rounds of the Rally America National Championship in 2015. There is no driver more dominant in U.S. Rally today than Higgins.

David Higgins joined Subaru Rally Team USA in 2011. He has won multiple Rally America National Championships (2011-2016, 2018) for the Subaru brand, racking up more than thirty-five victories. His 2018 championship was his seventh for Subaru and ninth overall in the U.S.

Higgins got his first taste of motorsport in motorcycle trials when he was 8 years old. By age 10, he had moved into national kart racing and won seven titles against drivers including future F1 star David Coulthard. At his first opportunity David started rallying and was invited to drive in the team that late WRC legend Richard Burns drove for in the Peugeot 205 Challenge.

David went on to win 1997, 1999 and 2002 British Rally Class Championships. In 2002, he also came to America as a privateer and won the SCCA ProRally Championship. He repeated his success in 2003, winning six events and again claiming the SCCA ProRally Driver’s Championship. For 2004 it was back to Britain where David contested the full season and became the British Rally Champion. David also began rallying in the ultra-competitive Chinese Rally Championship in 2004, where he helped his team win the Team’s Championship in 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2012. (Foreign drivers can’t score individual points in the Chinese championship).

Rally cars hurtle along narrow dirt roads at speeds in excess of 100mph. The driver has no idea what lies around the next bend and must rely entirely on instructions called out from the co-driver’s ‘Pace Notes’ to help negotiate whatever lies ahead.

The ability to react and control the vehicle when the unexpected happens is vital in rally racing. This kind of driving requires immense concentration, great reserves of endurance, lightning reactions and near-superhuman levels of skill.

Higgins current ride is a 2019 Subaru WRX STI.  He competes in the Open 4WD Class in the American Rally Association (ARA) National Championship.  For the 2019 season, Higgins’ Subaru sports the #1, in recognition of his status as the reigning National Champion.

Beginning with a stock 2019 Subaru WRX STI, the vehicle’s interior is stripped bare, the body shell is lightened and fully seam-welded, and a multipoint roll cage is added for extra strength.

The standard gas tank is replaced with a rally-proof Kevlar fuel cell and lightweight carbon/Kevlar competition seats with a HANS (Head and Neck Restraint System). Other interior additions include a custom carbon fiber dashboard, carbon fiber door panels, a Rally odometer and an onboard fire suppression system.

Under the hood sits a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder, turbocharged and intercooled STI engine with an ARA Championship-mandated 34mm turbo inlet restrictor. Launch control, a turbo anti-lag system and a hydraulic handbrake are just a few of the performance modifications. A 6-speed, close-ratio dog-engagement (fewer, larger teeth) gearbox is used, allowing Higgins to shift without the clutch. The DCCD (Driver Controlled Center Differential) is used in a similar way to a stock WRX STI, but the team installs a competition Electronic Control Unit for the differential, allowing for greater control of the torque delivery between all four wheels.

The exterior of the car implements a custom widebody kit as well as mud flaps and a 1/4-inch aluminum skid plate underneath. The stock rear wing is replaced with a larger vertically slotted wing, which greatly improves down force to the rear of the car, even as it slides sideways.

David is a well-respected performance driving instructor as well and when he isn’t racing in the states, he often travels the world doing one-on-one rally coaching to drivers of every level.

Cameron Steele

Cameron Steele

Pioneer – Advocate

Long before social media, Cameron Steele was doing social media. He is one of one of off-road’s early cross over pioneers, sharing his love for desert racing, adventure travel, and all things Baja with the world outside of the off-road community.  Johnny Campbell calls him “Baja’s biggest ambassador.”  Dan and Luke McMillin call him “Mr. Baja.”  Baja United Group dubbed him the “Baja Game Changer.” Whatever nickname you give him, no one represents the sport of off-road racing better than the Desert Assassin himself Cameron Steele.

Cameron’s love for Baja started with family trips in the 1970s. He was just two years old when he made his first journey south of the border.

“My future includes a lot of Baja. It’s a magical place,” Cameron said. “Once you race at Baja, it just gets in your blood. Some kids want to win the Indy 500, but I’ve always loved Baja. It’s like chasing a dream. Baja just draws you back again and again.”

Cameron is well known for his #16 Desert Assassins Trophy Truck. He chose the number 16 as an ode to his roots racing limited cars with 1600cc engines.  He is perhaps equally as well known for his Desert Assassins Baja lifestyle events like ‘Rip to Cabo’, ‘Trail of Missions,’ and the ‘Baja Beach Bash’ that he hosts with fellow 2018 inductee Johnny Campbell.  The Baja lifestyle events got their start in 2005 with Cameron’s first group effort, the ‘We Love Our Wives’ trip.

Cameron came on to the National scene as an announcer in an unlikely fashion. He had entered the 1998 ESPN X Games Freestyle moto qualifier.  The promoter didn’t have an announcer and offered Cameron the job. Cameron had originally planned on competing but decided to ask how much the announcing job paid.  The promoter replied, “Better than 10th place.”  With more than 40 entries in his division, Cameron assessed the options and chose the announcing job over competing. Later on, he became the analyst for the same show, and landed his first TV commentating position. His second on-air position was the 1999 Summer X Games in San Francisco.

The on-air experience with the X Games led to work with the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, Supercross, Motocross, IRL and Triple Crown Programming on ESPN. Cameron was the lead reporter for the Champ Car World Series for three years. He co-hosted MTV Sports and Music Festival events, and many other specialties programming shows, working for all the major networks.  He partnered with ABC on the Monster Energy Rip to Cabo presented by Honda, and Monster Energy Trail of Missions presented by BFGoodrich. Cameron has also written articles for publications including Dirt Sports and Wide Open. He has a natural talent for sharing his enthusiasm and excitement for adventure through varied media sources and social media channels, bringing listeners, readers, and viewers along for the exciting ride that is the life of Cameron Steele.

Cameron is married to Heidi Steele, a successful desert racer in her own right. Heidi was named Dirt Sports Driver of the Year in 2008. The couple appeared in together in a popular Yokohama Tire commercial, playing a game of automotive ‘Duck, Duck, Goose.’  Their daughter Kay was born in 2012.

The Steele family has supported the Rancho Santa Marta orphanage in San Vicente, Baja, for more than 30 years. Co-inductee Johnny Campbell is involved with the orphanage as well. Cameron has also helped coordinate hurricane relief with fellow off-road racers through a group called Baja Strong.

Baja has brought Cameron heartache as well. His good friend Jeff ‘Ox’ Kargola died from injuries sustained in motorcycle accident during a Baja trip in 2011. Cameron, Johnny Campbell, and many of Jeff’s friends constructed a giant ‘OX’ memorial spanning 30-feet across near Baja’s Diablo Dry Lake Bed, complete with a time capsule where well-wishers can leave notes to be read many years from now.

Cameron’s latest venture is Baja HQ, billed as a new way for the Steele family to share their love for off-roading and Baja. The idea for Baja HQ has been brewing for years, but Cameron put it on hold to focus on preparing his Desert Assassins SCORE Trophy Truck team for the 50th Baja 1000 in November of 2017, where he came away with a 2nd place overall finish.

Edit:  In November of 2018, shortly after being inducted in the Hall of Fame, Cameron achieved a life long goal of winning the Baja 1000.

Contributors:  Eric Morley, Blue C Advertising and Baja United Group; SCORE International; San Clemente Times

Ed Robinson

Ed Robinson

Special Achievement – Organization

In 1975, Ed Robinson was part of a dune buggy club in northern California’s Sacramento valley that had no off-road events on their calendar. That same year, he stepped forward to promote off-road races, founding Valley Off-Road Racing Association, better known as VORRA.

With the help of a local motocross promoter, Ed put together the first year of short course races at venues in Dixon and Plymouth, California. After the first year, Ed went out on his own as the sole proprietor running VORRA.

Ed continued to open new venues in northern California each year, including short course races at Marysville, Baylands Raceway Park in Fremont, Hollister Hills, Placerville Speedway and Prairie City in Sacramento.  Desert racing became part of the schedule in VORRA’s second year, with the first event near the tiny town of Weeks in the neighboring state of Nevada. Ed continued to expand VORRA’s desert racing program in Nevada, adding races in Yerington, Reno, Dayton, Fernley, Fallon, Lovelock, Hawthorne, and the historic Comstock in Virginia City.

VORRA helped boost the racing careers of many racers, including Sherman Balch, who went on to race with Factory Nissan; Sam Berri, a successful Best in the Desert class 1500 racer; Kevin Kroyer, of Kroyer Racing Engines; and the Moss Brothers, Don and Ken. The iconic Moss Brothers’ Bronco went on to become one of the winningest vehicles in SCORE racing history, with more than 30 wins between 2002-08.

Ed founded VORRA for the working man. Race weekends were set up so that the racers could maintain their Monday through Friday jobs and not miss any days of work. The big summer 3-day weekends, Memorial Day and Labor Day, were always VORRA desert race weekends.

A working man himself, Ed ran VORRA while maintaining a 40-plus hour per week career in construction, along with raising his son Troy and daughter Trisha, with his wife Jenny.

Under Ed’s direction, VORRA races were always on time and well organized. The entry fees were kept as low as possible, so the average person could afford to race. VORRA was founded on the concept of the Sportsman racer and continues to offer a Sportsman class for new drivers.

Ed ran VORRA for 25 years. He sold the race series in 2000. After retiring from both his work career and VORRA, Ed spent the next few years volunteering occasionally with VORRA, as well as with SCORE, Best in the Desert, and SNORE, doing recovery and operations. Slowing down the past few years due to health

reasons, Ed and Jenny still attend races as their travels permit.

In 2018, VORRA entered its 43rd year, with its 5th owner, still with the primary goal of providing the every day working man with a fun and safe environment to enjoy the thrill of off-road competition.

Photo: Ed Robinson in 2018.

 

Edit:  VORRA’s 5th owner, Ultra4 Racing’s Dave Cole, gifted VORRA back to the Robinson family at the 2018 Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame Induction & Awards Ceremony. Ed’s son Troy, friends and family, are looking forward to bringing VORRA back for the every man (and woman) racer.

Contributor: Troy Robinson

Robbie Pierce

Robbie Pierce

Pioneer – Industry

They say that nice guys finish last, but nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Robbie Pierce. He has combined his competitive spirit for racing with his experience as a pioneer in vehicle safety to create a win-win for the off-road community.

Even when he isn’t the first racer across the finish line, Robbie still wins by gaining valuable first-hand knowledge about the fitment and durability of his products, using that knowledge to develop new and better products.

With a reputation for being able to weld anything and everything while adhering to the most painstaking tolerances, Robbie has impressive resume that includes numerous aerospace assignments. He humbly admits to having ‘just a few’ of his welding projects currently in orbit, circling the planet Earth.

Back down to Earth, Robbie developed the mass production method for welding titanium golf club heads, revolutionizing the golf industry.  It was Robbie’s passion for keeping off-road racers safe, however, that would define his career and his legacy.

Robbie became CEO of MasterCraft Safety in 1999 and expanded the business with the purchase of Impact from safety pioneer Bill Simpson in 2010.  When Robbie took over the reins at MasterCraft Safety he had already been doing fabrication work on their seat frames for nearly fifteen years in his San Diego based aerospace welding and machine shop. “Honestly, at the time it never occurred to me to purchase MasterCraft, even though in hindsight it seems so obvious. I had always thought of myself as a specialty metals and aerospace welder and that was the path I had always taken,” said Robbie. “The seat frames were always the extra business and it was nice to have but it was the specialty welding that paid the bills,” he added.

Many safety product innovations in the off-road industry have been developed, refined and expanded under Robbie’s leadership, from helmets and restraints, to driving suits and gloves. His seat time in the race truck led to such innovative products as the Impact Air Draft system, with a unique offset air port designed to clear overhead tube work inside the vehicle.

Robbie sold Impact by MasterCraft Safety to the Italian firm Sparco in 2017. Less than a year later, Robbie announced his acquisition of Jimco Racing, a successful manufacturer of off-road racing vehicles.  Jimco’s talented craftsmen have built and developed more than 500 race cars, trucks and UTVs leading to hundreds of victories and championships around the world.

“I feel like I’ve come full circle,” Robbie said, referring to his recent purchase of Jimco Racing.  Robbie purchased Jimco from Mike Julson’s step-son, Matt Loiodice. Mike’s father Jim founded Jimco in the mid-1970s. Mike had this to say about Robbie’s purchase of Jimco Racing:

 “My dream is that in ten years I can walk through The Mint 400 or Baja 1000 pits and still see the Jimco brand still going strong. This is the right move at the right time…you have to be a powerhouse – or you will be a memory.”

Jimco has a good opportunity to be that powerhouse under Robbie’s direction. With more than 40 years of hands on fabrication knowledge, race experience, and leadership skills, Robbie is one of the most respected – and well liked – members of the off-road community.

Robbie has donated and sponsored safety products to many fledgling racers, pit organizations, series and sanctioning bodies over the years, and has been a tremendous resource and advocate for safer racing practices. He has quietly donated his time and money to orphanages in Baja, and financially supports Rancho Sordo Mundo, a school for the deaf in Baja. Partnering with BFGoodrich and fellow racer Gustavo Vildosola, Robbie organized the transport of essential goods to the people of Baja following hurricanes.

Profile Image Credit: Vincent Knakal

Jimco Racing Credit: Daniel C Photography

Contributors: Rusty Megois, Rusty’s Off Road; ORMHOF inductee Marty Fiolka; Harry Wagner, and Kelli Willmore

Mark McMillin

Mark McMillin

Competition – Off-Road Racing

Mark joins his late father Corky as the first father and son to be inducted in the Off-Road Hall of Fame, a fitting tribute to the family behind the off-road dynasty that is the Big Blue M.

As part of one of the most storied and successful teams in off-road racing history, Mark’s passion for supporting the industry, for victory, and for setting the highest bar possible — while still making sure he and all around him are having the time of their lives doing it — is a Hall of Fame worthy achievement. This five-time Baja 1000 overall champion enjoyed considerable success behind the wheel, but his real story extends far beyond being a great race car driver.

Mark started his race career more than 40 years ago, driving a borrowed Class 9 car at the 1976 SCORE Baja 1000, a race he would dominate in the 1980s, with a remarkable five overall victories, in 1981, 1983, 1984, 1986 and 1988.  Baja was, and continues to be, Mark’s favorite place to race. He also has wins to his credit south of the border at the SCORE Baja 500, SCORE San Felipe 250, and the NORRA Mexican 1000, where he brought his famous “Macadu” Chenowth-Porsche out of retirement for the inaugural event in 2010. That commitment helped influence a great number of other racers to join the vintage off-road movement and create what today is known as “The Happiest Race on Earth.”

Mark also had success as a racer in the United States, with many overall and class victories, including an overall win at The Great American Off-Road Race, The Mint 400, in 1988.

At the 2017 NORRA Mexican 1000, Mark received his third prestigious BILSTEIN Madonna Award. The Madonna award is given to “an individual who wins a championship in a major American racing series, displays sportsmanship and positive character traits on and off the track, and possesses an intense desire to win while overcoming adversities.”

The Big Blue M of McMillin Racing has been synonymous with off-road racing for five decades. Three generations of McMillins, including Mark’s late father Corky (also a Hall of Fame Inductee), Mark’s brother Scott, Mark’s niece Jessica, nephew Andy, and sons Dan and Luke, have campaigned more than 40 race vehicles and competed in over 300 races, with more than 700 race entries, resulting in more than 250 class podium victories. The McMillins have combined for more than 100 race victories and 50 overall titles. The McMillin Racing history is meticulously documented and cataloged in one of the largest private collections of off-road racing memorabilia, publications, maps, and history in the sport. Much of this historic collection is documented in the book, “Big Blue M: The McMillin Racing Story” published in 2015, co-authored by Mark and fellow Hall of Fame inductee Marty Fiolka.

Mark’s success in off-road is balanced by a highly successful business career. A graduate of San Diego State University (SDSU), Mark is president of The McMillin Companies, his family’s San Diego based real estate firm. Mark was just 14 when he started working for his father, sweeping up construction debris at a job site. He worked his way through almost every job in the company. When Mark entered college, he wanted to enroll in a construction program, but SDSU didn’t have one. In fact, such a program didn’t exist in the whole state of California.  In true Mark McMillin fashion, he worked to provide a solution, and today is the driving force behind the Construction Engineering and Management Program at SDSU’s College of Engineering.

Mark has been married to his wife C’Ann for 31 years. They have three children, Dan, Macy, and Luke.  Inspired by his daughter Macy, Mark is also a long-time member of the board of directors of the United Cerebral Palsy Association of San Diego.  Another one of Mark’s many philanthropic pursuits is his support of the SDSU Baja Engineering Team, a program that encourages college level students to pursue engineering excellence through  building and racing off-road vehicles for collegiate competitions hosted by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

Mark is a past president of the Building Industry Association (BIA) of San Diego County—a position also held by his late father Corky–and has served on the association’s board of directors. He also served on the California Major Builders Council for the California Building Industry Association and on the board of directors for the National Association of Homebuilders. In 1996, the BIA named Mark McMillin as their Industry Professional of the Year. Mark was inducted into the California Home Building Hall of Fame in 2008. Also in 2008, then-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Mark to a four-year term on the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission.  Mark is proud to have been able to represent the off-road community at the state level.

What Mark has accomplished behind the wheel is impressive, but what he does behind the scenes is perhaps even more telling of the character of this Hall of Fame inductee.  Mark’s generosity toward his fellow racers, crew members, and the off-road community in general, is well known. Always willing to lend a hand, loan a part, or offer a ride, it would be hard to find a team in off-road that doesn’t have stories to tell about Mark’s willingness to help his fellow racers and his fun-spirited sense of humor.

In 2015, legendary racer and Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame chairman, Rod Hall, approached Mark, asking him to become ORMHOF’s next chairman. Mark happily accepted the job leading ORMHOF’s all-volunteer board. Over the past three years, Mark has worked to fulfill the organization’s mission to recognize and honor those individuals and organizations whose lifelong contributions to off-road motorsports have set a standard for others to follow.

Contributor: Marty Fiolka, The RennSport Group and ORMHOF Inductee