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World Challenge - Navarro IV Ready For Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach Debut

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LONG BEACH, April 16, 2011: Rafael Navarro IV, an emerging off-road and sports car racing driver from Southern California, has been going to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach since he was a little boy and this weekend the 17-year-old will make his competition debut in America’s premier street race in the Pirelli World Challenge at Long Beach Presented by StopTech.

Navarro IV, who is frequently known as “R4,” will drive the No. 01 Istook Motorsports Volkswagen GTI Turbo in the World Challenge Touring Car (TC) class. This season marks R4’s second year of racing on paved road courses in addition to continuing a successful off-road racing career that currently has him second in points in the SCORE Lites championship. He contested the full Jetta TDI Cup road racing series last year, improving at every race to close out the year with the experience and drive to continue pounding the pavement in sports car racing.

“This race means a lot to me because it is a hometown race and I've grown up going coming here to watch the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach,” Navarro said. “I remember getting to sit in Trans-Am and Indy Cars as little boy. This is the top street race in America and one of the largest sports special events in California, so I am getting very excited and anxious to race. I'd be crazy not to say I'm not nervous, Long Beach is definitely an intimidating track, not the easiest place to be making my debut in the Pirelli World Challenge, but I'm up for the challenge.”

Navarro’s most recent visits to Long Beach have all come in the span of the last week.

“I have been to Long Beach about four or five times this past week just to pre-run the track as much as possible,” Navarro said. “This is the interesting part of street course racing because the final barriers aren't put up until Thursday and anyone can be ‘on’ track if you are careful.”

In addition to his own recent “test sessions” on the streets of Long Beach, R4 has also had a nearly better-than-real-life lesson in learning the tricky street circuit.

“I've also put in several virtual hours on track at CXC Simulations in Marina Del Rey, not too far from Long Beach,” Navarro said. “The simulator really helps me get a feel for tracks that I have never raced on before, and it gives me an edge over the competition because I can log hours and hours of free on-track practice.

Off the track is where R4 has the majority of his experience – over a decade of it despite his young age – and off-road racing has been the path to paved racing success for more than one Southern California racing legend. Reigning five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson and Robby Gordon are two Southern California drivers who began their careers in off-road racing. Southern California racing legend Parnelli Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner, also raced and won in off-road competition.

Long Beach isn’t the only iconic event on R4’s 2011 schedule. He is also preparing now for the Baja 500 in June, a legendary off-road racing test of man and machine at any distance.

Navarro will graduate from Great Oak High School, in Temecula, next month and will be soon decide which university he will attend in the fall.

“I plan on keeping racing in my future, and want to go to a top engineering school to further my understanding of vehicle dynamics,” Navarro said. “Continuing my education at a top level university is key for me to continue my path of developing a career in motorsport."

Pirelli World Challenge practice sessions Friday afternoon and Saturday morning will be followed by a Sunday morning qualifying session and the 45-minute race Sunday afternoon at 4:15 p.m. local time.