One of Parnelli’s most significant victories was the 1971 Baja 1000, the big off-rood desert dash across the trackless wilds of the Baja California peninsula. He talked about how he won by overriding his hyper-aggressive tendencies, for once playing tortoise instead of hare.
“Self-discipline is the whole answer to winning off-road races. I’m the best example of that With more self-discipline, I think I might have won every race; I swear I had the fastest cars. But with off-roading, it comes down to the fact that you should run at about 80 per cent of your ability. You can’t root hog and die all day long in an off-road race and expect to finish. There’s a whole lot of luck with off-road racing, too.
“You know, say you’re going across 30 miles of washroad. Just one bump after the other. You jump over one bump and it carries your car over the next three. Maybe you don’t plan it that way. You catch one bump just a little wrong and it sets you down the wrong way and breaks off a wheel.
“I was leading one race where my car was feeling so strong it was unbelievable. I was having fun. I wasn’t pushing hard. I was running along this deep rutted wash and the rear end slowly started to climb out. Naturally, I turned the steering wheel the other way to get the front end over to correct it. And I hit a rock. It put me out. I just sat out there in the middle of nowhere cussing like you wouldn’t believe.”