SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal Issue - Jan 2017

SCORE Journal - The Official Publication of SCORE Off-Road Racing

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Page 62 of 106

Points Matter For Class 10 Champion Rafael Navarro IV, Consistency is the name of his racing game While consistency may not necessarily win races, it can win championships. No one knows this better than Rafael Navarro IV who has utilized this strategy better than most during the 2016 SCORE season. His record-breaking second-place finishes at the 2016 SCORE San Felipe 250, Baja 500, Rosarito Beach Desert Challenge and finally the Baja 1000, guaranteed him the SCORE International Class 10 Championship. With that, Navarro IV also received the recognition as a fierce competitor, who never gives up. “The championship hasn’t really sunk in yet, but it will maybe at the awards banquet. I’m really thankful for all of the sponsors and support we got during the season,” Navarro said. In total, 23-year-old Navarro accumulated 376 championship points this season, becoming only the fourth Class 10 racer to reach such a milestone in 20 years. “It’s frustrating not to get first place wins at some of the races in which we were leading,” said Navarro. “But we were very consistent all year and that really made the difference for us.” The season started off with plenty of problems that plagued Navarro and his team at every SCORE race. “We were leading both in San Felipe and Rosarito,” said Navarro. “Then we had issues and lost our first place positions. At the SCORE Baja 500 and Baja 1000, the competitors within the class all had trouble because of log jams on the course, but that’s not something we can control.” Navarro doesn’t lose sleep on what he knows he can’t control over in Baja. He can, however, concentrate on his driving and logistics that combined with his tenacity on the course, paid off for him in the end. “There are so many different variables in off-road racing,” said Navarro. “But we did our best to consistently maintain our positions.” Challenges Of A Competitive Class Navarro as well as his sponsors understand the difficulties competing in Baja and in a very competitive class. Todd Winslow, for example, was an early threat all season to Navarro’s championship, but Class 10 is so competitive that a 15-minute lead by one driver can vanish in seconds; especially at a pace that is no less adrenaline packed than trophy trucks. “There’s never a second to relax in Class 10,” said Navarro. Coming in second place all season is perhaps even more challenging than winning a single race, especially when you add that the amount of competition in Class 10 has grown, and the fact that all of these open-wheel buggies have the same limited (1655cc) engines and state-of-the-art suspension systems. “It’s super cost effective for a spec-class,” said Navarro. Recently, however, the class changed once SCORE approved the use of 35-inch tires which according to Navarro, has blown the field wide open. In fact, 20-plus entries ran Class 10 during the 49th SCORE Baja 1000, making for a very crowded field at any race. “It’s not about horsepower and travel necessarily, because these are spec vehicles,” said Navarro. “It comes down to Class 10 being a driver’s class and people gravitate to that.” A Winning Alumi Craft Buggy While the engine in Class 10 racing is limited to 2.4-liter 1655cc’s engines, modifications to improve suspension travel, axles, transmissions and chassis on these vehicles is nearly wide-open. According to Navarro, Alumi Craft open-wheel cars are constantly being updated for “beefier” shocks and axles, but it’s not an advantage to take on too much weight since it adds stress on the four-cylinder engines. Navarro’s set-up is already on the ragged edge of maximum suspension travel. He realizes that it’s best to find the perfect balance between weight, overall performance, and the reliability of the 2.4-liter Ecotec Chevy engine in his buggy. “It’s a balancing act setting up these cars,” said Navarro. “Our set-up happens to have worked for us. The engines can handle the two-inch increase in tire diameter, but you have to build the tranny, and the ring and pinion ratios must be geared right. It’s amazing how fast you can run with this new tread pattern from BFGoodrich. The ride is ten-times as smooth too, and I can do 200 miles now and feel wonderful.” A Team Effort Behind every successful team are guys like Vic Bruckmann that can put it all together. Bruckmann served as a co-driver and chief mechanic for Navarro and is a very accomplished desert racer in open-wheel buggies. “Bruckmann taught me the ways of desert racing,” said Navarro. The team’s navigator Simon Perez is a long-time fixture too, as he pointed out Perez’s contribution to the championship. “It’s a team effort, and typically we had 30 people pitting and chasing for us at each race. These are all volunteers and they are another big reason we can be competitive and successful. Getting the driver’s duties done is only a small part of the puzzle,” said Navarro. Like his teammates, Navarro’s father and the rest of his family are solidly behind his racing career. His grandfather and father are in fact long-time enthusiasts and got him started at an early age. “I was just a young boy watching my father racing 1600cc buggies from the rear seat of Frank DeAngelo’s chase truck,” said Navarro. “I would be eating little pretzels that Frank had in his truck and asking all sorts of questions about racing. It was my upbringing and my passion for racing grew into where I’m at now.” The rewards of a championship win extend to the team’s primary sponsors too. Grupo Navarro and Pete’s Camp El Paraiso in San Felipe have long supported him, and as he racked up more points this season, other sponsors wanted to get involved too. While no one knows what accolades 2017 will bring, one thing is certain. Navarro won’t give up the run for the next championship no matter his place on the podium. SJ

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