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Meet the ORMHOF Class of 2023:  Mary McGee

Meet the ORMHOF Class of 2023: Mary McGee

Mary McGee – Competition

Mary McGee was born in Juneau, Alaska, on December 12, 1936. She then moved to Iowa to live with her grandparents during World War II as Alaska was considered to be at risk of a Japanese invasion. In 1944 the family settled in Phoenix, Arizona, where she met her husband, Don McGee, a mechanic. Shortly after their 1956 wedding, Don introduced her to racing cars which eventually led to racing motorcycles.

1968: Mary McGee riding her 250 Husqvarna at Saddleback Park

While a tall 5’11”, Mary always described herself as "fast on my feet, fast with my brain, self-conscious and lacking confidence", however, she had "no trouble with confidence on the racetrack." A pioneer in the sport of desert off-road racing and motocross, Mary broke down many barriers for female racers. She has achieved many firsts and has been a great role model for our sport.

Mary learned to ride on a 200cc Triumph Tiger Cub she bought from a friend. She later took up motorcycle road racing to try to improve her car racing skills. A female road racer in the United States was a new phenomenon, so the American Federation of Motorcyclists made Mary take a test before allowing her to race. She passed the test – on a 125 Honda CB92 wearing a pink polka-dot helmet -- and became the first woman to hold an FIM license in the United States.

In 1963 at a New Year’s Eve party attended by Hollywood stars who raced both cars and motorcycles, Mary’s friend, the actor and future ORMHOF inductee Steve McQueen, told her, “McGee, you’ve got to get off that pansy road-racing bike and come out to the desert.” Taking heed of McQueen’s good-natured ribbing, Mary switched to dirt riding in 1963. She started her off-road career by riding a 250cc Honda Scrambler in an AMA District 37 enduro. She raced a Datsun 510 in the very first Mexican 1000 in 1967. 

Mary McGee was the first woman to:

  • race a US MC/FIM-sanctioned motorcycle race in the United States (1960, above)
  • finish the Baja 1000 (1968)
  • road race motorcycles in the United States
  • compete in Motocross in the United States
  • race with Europeans in International Motocross in the United States
  • race the Baja 500 solo on a motorcycle (1975)

In 1967 Mary raced the inaugural Baja 1000 in a Datsun 510.

"The 510 made it to the halfway point," said Mary, "and it was bitter cold." In the 1968 Mexican 1000, I drove a Datsun Mini Pickup that had been repaired after it had rolled in the 1967 Meixcan 1000 and therefore did not finish. The little truck was given to Pete Brock Racing and they made it whole again and I was asked to drive. My co-driver was John Timanis (pictured with Mary, above). John was the chief tech inspector for the Sports Car Club of America. There was no Mini Pickup class at that time so we had to be in the big truck class and even among those big V-8 and V-6 trucks this little Datsun was 4th! It was pretty awesome to be 4th in this class. My only problem with the truck was that I am tall and that truck was small...I felt quite squished from Ensenada to La Paz!

In 1975, riding her Husqvarna 250, Mary became the first woman to solo the SCORE Baja 500.

Mary was given the distinguished honor of being named the FIM Legend of 2012 at the FIM Gala in Monte Carlo, Monaco. She was inducted into the Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2014 and the American Motorcyclist Hall of Fame in 2018.

Mary was honored as Grand Marshal of the 2022 NORRA Mexican 500 and has a trophy awarded in her name to the most deserving female racer.

Mary McGee joins friend Malcolm Smith as an inductee in the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Mary has always said that the hardest thing she ever did was racing in Baja. "It was very barren, no electricity, no doctors, no phone.” When she got a call from three-time motocross world champion Rolf Tibblin, who asked if she would ride the Baja 500 solo in ’75, she replied, “I can’t do that Rolf.” Rolf responded in his Swedish accent “You will do it Mary.” So, she accepted the challenge. “We all get one life,” says Mary. “But you are not living if you aren’t having fun.”

About the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame

The Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame was established in 1978 by racing promoter and NORRA founder Ed Pearlman to recognize and honor those individuals and organizations whose lifelong contributions to off-road motorsports have set a standard for others to follow. In 1995, legendary off-road racer Rod Hall became ORMHOF chairman, a position he held for more than twenty years, before selecting current chairman Mark McMillin as his successor.

The mission of the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame is to educate and inspire present and future generations of the off-road community by celebrating the achievements of those who came before.  Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame inductees represent excellence and achievement in many areas of off-road, including advocacy, journalism, industry, rock sports, desert racing, short course, and rally.  

ORMHOF maintains a collection of vintage off-road vehicles that are displayed at museums around the country, as well as an extensive online archive of print, images, and videos, with more content added as funds become available.  The Hall of Fame Off-Road Registry invites clubs, organizations, events, businesses, and individuals with fifty years or more of history in off-road to apply for Hall of Fame heritage status in the official archives of the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame. 

The Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame is funded through donations, individual memberships, and industry partners. A 501c non-profit organization, ORMHOF has earned a GuideStar Non-Profit Gold Seal of Transparency for 2023.

ORMHOF is guided by an all-volunteer board of leaders in the off-road community, including chairman Mark McMillin and board members Frank ‘Butch’ Arciero Jr, Dave Cole, Frank DeAngelo, Bud Feldkamp, Jeff Furrier, Bob Ham, Josh Hall, Gary Haugley, Rich Klein, Rafael Navarro III, Fardad Niknam, Bonnie Vessels, and Rory Ward.

Links to 2023 Gala tickets, discounted room rates, and Gala sponsorship opportunities are available on the 2023 Ceremony tab. We invite you to browse the ORMHOF online collections of print, images, and video, and to learn more about how to join, partner, or donate. Legends live at