Rich Minga can trace his off-road heritage to his childhood, when he went camping in Baja with his family. In the decades to follow, Minga experienced everything that off-roading has to offer—good and bad.
Minga grew up in San Diego surrounded by a family of builders. “My grandpa and dad taught me how to weld, fabricate, and work on stuff…It was just a hobby for them both, but they had a love for mechanical things,” he says.
Those skills quickly came in handy for Minga. “My parents got me this Volkswagen [Beetle], and I had to build it,” he says. “My dad gave me this book, How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive (The Idiot Book). It was a real bitchin’ book: it was a funny, easy tutorial. I learned how to build engines and do everything with my Volkswagen.”
A few years later, Minga started working at Mark Stahl Race Prep in Chula Vista. “Mark was a champion of the sport, so I learned from the very best.” Working with Stahl opened a lot of off-road doors for Minga, including an opportunity to race in the Baja 1000 and help build copies of the Chenowth 1000 in Mexico.
By 1987, Minga had won his first official points championship in the SCORE/HDRA Challenger class. Shortly after, he joined the BFGoodrich family. “That was the team to be on. They had the best product, they had the best pit support, and they had some of the best mechanics,” he says.
After finding success behind the wheel, Minga found himself in front of the camera. From on-camera appearances to stunt driving, he worked on a total of 37 TV shows and movies. As Minga’s work in show business ramped up, he took a respite from racing between 1994 and 2000.
During his racing hiatus in 1998, Minga became best friends with a new neighbor, Rich Foder. “Rich bought a couple of cars and built them for his son, and I would go help on the cars. He pulled me back in, and I started racing with him and his nephew.”
Then, disaster struck. A bad accident took the lives of Foder and his nephew. Minga was devastated. Compounding the heartbreak, he lost three other family members the same year. He quit racing altogether.
“I couldn’t do it.” he says.
As painful as his loss was, the off-road world would never be fully off limits to Minga. In 2004, a friend invited him to guide tours in Baja. “It was really neat to take people to Mexico and introduce them to the culture,” Minga says. He got to see a different side of the desert. “I get to enjoy Baja more than ever before.”
Minga has lived the sacrifice and pain that’s inevitable with off-roading. He’s been beaten and bloodied. But returning to Baja was never really a choice. You can’t escape what’s in your blood. You just find a different way to live in harmony with who you are. Minga has.
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