Rafael Navarro IV Wins SCORE Lites Class Victory in This Past Weekend’s 43rd Annual Tecate SCORE Baja 500
ENSENADA, Baja California, Mexico (June 7, 2011) – Achieving early-career success on the same path taken by some past and current racing icons, Rafael Navarro IV scored a convincing victory in this past weekend’s legendary 43rd annual Tecate SCORE Baja 500 off-road race in the SCORE Lites class in the No. 1209 Jimco-VW buggy, co-driving with his father Rafael Navarro III and Vic Bruckmann.
“The race went according to plan,” Navarro IV said. “No flats the whole day, it was a pretty straightforward run. I passed two Trophy-Trucks that had issues but other than that it was clean running and we ran our own pace. The water crossing sections were really rutted out and the lingering dust was real bad toward the end of the race as night started to fall.”
Despite his relatively young age, the Clemson University-bound recent graduate of Great Oak High School in Temecula is an emerging road racing talent in sports car competition as well. The younger Navarro’s Baja 500 victory makes up for a devastating disqualification in another legendary motorsports event, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach less than two months ago. An apparent Touring Car class victory in the Pirelli World Challenge Championships race at Long Beach was taken away after a minor technical infraction was found on the VW GTI Navarro IV was driving.
“I have been competing long enough to know that racing is a game of highs and lows and constantly changing fortunes,” said Navarro IV, who is known in racing circles as “R4.” Long Beach was frustrating, earning a win after doing everything right only to lose it due to something completely beyond my control was a very tough lesson. What was in my control was the ability to shake it off and focus on winning the Baja 500. The whole experience has made me much more focused and determined. I am really looking forward to getting back in the VW GTI at Laguna Seca and getting ready for the SCORE Primm 300 in Nevada now. I haven’t seen the points yet, but we have to be in good shape and may even be leading SCORE Lites after Baja.”
The elder Navarro co-drove with his son for the first time in the legendary Baja 500 event.
“My plan was just to ferry it across the peninsula and not get into any trouble,” Navarro III said. “We just drove consistent and kept it clean and took care of the car. Finishing this race has eluded me for a very long time but to win it with my son’s team is something I will never forget. I am really proud of these guys as they have been knocking on the door all season. They definitely deserve it!”
Bruckmann both drove and prepared the Jimco-VW which ran flawlessly. The Navarros credit Bruckmann and their other partners for playing a key role in the victory.
“We owe a great deal of thanks to Vic for his wisdom and magnificent prep-job on the race car, which was absolutely perfect,” R4 said. “Also huge thanks to Pete’s Camp and GN that have made this season possible along with the support of BFGoodrich, Oakley, Eibach, Method Wheels and Major Performance engines.”
A second-generation Mexican-American born and raised in Southern California, R4 is inspired by and follows in the footsteps of fellow Southern Californians Jimmie Johnson and Robby Gordon who began their NASCAR careers in off-road racing competition. Navarro is now looking at locking up his own championship in the SCORE-Lites class with just two events remaining this season.
“We were focused on posting a strong result at Baja to push toward the championship,” R4 said. “We spent an incredible amount of time and effort on planning, preparation, and pre-running. We had a physical lead on course in class early on and never looked back. Our team support and pit stops were flawless and execution was crucial as our strategy was different than that of our competitors.”
Round 3 of the five-race 2011 SCORE Desert Series, Baja drew 254 starters competing in 28 Pro and seven Sportsman classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs this past Saturday and Sunday in Ensenada. Entries came from 30 U.S. States, from Hawaii to New York, and the U.S. Territory of Guam, along with the additional countries of Mexico, Canada, Finland, Germany, Guatemala, Italy and Japan.
The rugged 452.84-mile course was similar to configurations of the last three years, bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez, and including a middle summit section. For those familiar with the geography of Mexico, the course ran clockwise, winding east to Ojos Negros, down to near San Felipe, back West to the Pacific Ocean below San Vicente and back north east through Santo Tomas on the way back to Ojos Negros and then Ensenada, which was both the start and finish point of the race.
Round 4 of the five-race 2011 SCORE Desert Series will be the 16th SCORE Las Vegas Terrible’s Primm 300, August 26 – 28, in Primm, Nevada.