Character-Building Long Beach Race Sees Rafael Navarro IV Reach The Highest of Highs And Lows
TEMECULA, April 24, 2011: As a young man and aspiring race car driver growing up in Southern California, Rafael Navarro IV knows all about the legend and history of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. A win on the streets of Long Beach is a career goal for Navarro, and that dream was realized – but only too briefly – last weekend when he crossed the finish line first in the Touring Car (TC) class in the Pirelli World Challenge race that closed out the 2011 edition of America’s premier temporary road course event.
At just 17-years-old, and after an outstanding driving performance, Navarro – who is known as “R4” – had seemingly scored a storybook victory on what he considers his home track. After racing to one of the best results to date in his brief racing career, however, R4’s fantastic day came crashing down when his No. 01 Istook Motorsports Volkswagen GTI Turbo failed post-race technical inspection. An unforeseen and relatively minor mechanical issue overlooked by the team took away what was an otherwise well-driven and hard-earned run to an apparent victory.
“I went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows,” Navarro said. “I have been competing long enough to know that racing is like that, your fortunes can change in an instant, but this one was particularly harsh and hard to take. You strive to do all of the right things, physical training, time on the simulator, study the track and bringing your sponsors to a car that has run in the series for several years without any issues. All of the hard work seemed to pay-off, and everything came together, only to get caught in the middle of technicalities.”
While Navarro’s disappointment is devastating for the moment, the soon-to-graduate high school senior is going to move on from the events of Long Beach, use it as a character-building and life-lesson experience, and quite simply – as racers do – start preparing for the next race.
“I can’t let this get me down and will use this experience to make me a more determined and focused driver,” Navarro said. “I am in a championship points run in the SCORE Off Road Series in SCORE Lites and that is my priority right now.”
Long Beach marked the beginning of R4’s second year of racing on paved road courses but he has more than a decade of experience in off-road racing, a path to the top that is not uncommon for Southern California drivers. 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.
Next up for R4 is another legendary event, the Baja 500. Before that race, however, Navarro will graduate from Great Oak High School, in Temecula, and will be soon decide which university he will attend in the fall.
“I obviously have my whole life ahead of me and will continue to work hard to win every race I enter,” Navarro said. “I know now what it’s like to win at Long Beach and I have no doubt I am going to experience that feeling again.”