The advent of the annual four-day Baja motorsports celebration that is the General Tire NORRA Mexican 1000 is quickly becoming the rallying point for the sport’s history to come alive. This year’s fourth annual running will be no exception, and there is no better example of this phenomenon than the return of the storied DeVercelly family and the “Bull Fighter” racecar.
For the record, there have been four generations of Baja racers with the DeVercelly last name – and all of them with the first name of Andy. Three of them will be on-hand to race in this year’s Mexican 1000 Rally, including 82-years young Andy DeVercelly Jr. And, in keeping with the distinctly vintage vibe of the event, their vehicle will be a time machine in itself – a newly restored Volkswagen-powered fiberglass dune buggy known as the “Bull Fighter.”
Their story stretches back to the inaugural running of the National Off Road Racing Association (NORRA) Mexican 1000 in 1967. Among the 68 entrants that came to Tijuana for world’s first professionally organized long-distance desert race was the oldest driver Andy (Pop) DeVercelly and Andy Devercelly Jr., both piloting homebuilt dune buggies. Pop managed to take the Class 4 victory, while his son hit a huge cow just 80 miles from the La Paz finish line – hence the advent of the “Bull Fighter” legacy. The duo and their famous dune buggy went on to compete in many NORRA sanctioned events (see below).
That racing legacy continued with Andy DeVercelly III, who began racing the Bull Fighter at just 16 years old in the 1974 and 1975 Baja 1000. In the early 1980s he and his father began racing a VW Bug in the 5/1600 class, taking back-to-back desert championships.
A fourth generation of racer arrived in 1999 in the form of Andy DeVercelly IV, who begin his career in a 1-2/1600 car. Andy IV eventually joined young Luke McMillin – a third generation racer – to take the 2010 class title. The youngest Andy is not only an excellent driver, but also owns Major Performance Racing Engines in Santee, Calif.
The famed “Bull Fighter” buggy sat for decades as a proud but battered racecar. With the advent of vintage off-road racing via NORRA and the Mexican 1000, its restoration became the focal point of Andy III and Andy IV to make it in time for the 2013 rally. Much of the car’s restoration, however, was completed in Andy Jr.’s home shop.
With the car nearly complete, the entire family and crew will share driving over the four-day 1,100-plus mile run from Mexicali to San Jose Del Cabo. And taking the first green flag of the event will be Andy Jr., with grandson Andy IV riding along side and making history in the process.
In an unlikely but entirely logical exclamation point to the story is that this unlikely effort will be supported by another legendary Baja racing family – the McMillins.
And that is the special magic that the “Happiest Race On Earth” has generated from its very humble beginnings.
Bull Fighter Racing History
1968 Stardust 7-11 / 3rd in Class
1968 Borrego Rough 100 / 1st in Class
1968 Norra 1000 / 1st in Class
1969 Baja 500 / 1st in Class
1969 Mint 400 / 1st in Class
1969 Borrego Rough 100 / 1st in Class
1969 Baja 1000 / 1st in Class
1970 Mint 400 / 3rd in Class
1974 Baja 500 / 1st in Class
1975 Baja 1000 / 2nd in Class 10
1976 Baja 1000 / 4th in Class 10
Dubbed the “Happiest Race on Earth,” the unique off-road rally was co-created by promoter Mike Pearlman in 2010. Each day of the rally consists of special stages (unlimited speed timed stages in the dirt) linked together by controlled speed liaison / transit sections (highway). The one-of-a-kind, once-a-year, four-day rally includes vintage off-road vehicles and motorcycles, rally cars, a limited group of modern desert racecars and classes for prerunner trucks and buggies. Pearlman’s late father Ed and others established the first running of the NORRA Mexican 1000 off-road rally in November of 1967, which eventually became internationally recognized and evolved into the Baja 1000 in the mid-1970s.
The NORRA Mexican 1000 is supported by General Tire, American Racing Wheel, South Point Casino, Walker Evans Racing, Azunia Tequila, KC HiLites and Mastercraft/Impact Safety.