Closing out his racing year with the same type of determined and competitive run that characterized his 2011 season, California teenager and Clemson University Freshman Rafael Navarro IV scored a fifth-place SCORE Lites finish in last weekend’s 44th Annual Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. He was driving the #1205 Jimco-VW buggy with his father Rafael Navarro III and Vic Bruckmann.
However, the top-five finish is only part of the story because the points amassed have clinched the 2011 SCORE Lites championship for Navarro IV – known in racing circles as “R4” or “Cuatro”.
This also puts the 18 year-old in the running for the SCORE MasterCraft Safety Rookie of the Year Award, solidifying his place as a 2011 SCORE Toyota Milestone Awards winner.
It’s an impressive list of achievements for any driver, let alone one who graduated from Great Oak High School in Temecula, CA in May.
Navarro IV has already been confirmed as one of just 21 recipients of the prestigious Toyota Milestone honor, which is presented only to the drivers that have completed all 1,762.02 required competition miles in the 2011 SCORE Desert Series. The championship and Rookie of the Year awards are awaiting final confirmation from the governing body.
“What a way to finish my rookie season in SCORE International,” said Navarro IV, who flew back to Clemson the day after completing the race to attend classes on Monday morning. “The Baja 1000 was grueling but everybody on the team gave their full effort in our more than 24-hour run to the checkered flag. I think we encountered every type of issue an off-road race can throw at you, but there was no quit in our team or drivers.”
Bruckmann started the race, handed off to the elder Navarro for the middle part of the 1000-mile race, while R4 took the Jimco-VW to the finish in a hard-charging run to the checkered flag.
“I got in the car in seventh place, about 10 minutes behind sixth and roughly 25 minutes out of fifth,” Navarro IV said. “I was pushing where I knew I could and I was taking care of the car in the rough, trying not to make any mistakes that could cost us the race. I got the sixth-place car near San Vicente while he was in the pits and later, on the Pacific side, I caught and passed the fifth-place entry. It was a fun charge. I don’t want to say it was easy, but it was a lot of fun and may have meant the difference between taking the championship and coming up short.”
“I’d like to thank all my sponsors,” Navarro IV said. “Pete’s Camp, GN, DTA Clothing, BFGoodrich, Eibach, Oakley and Method Race Wheels all provided great support this year. I’d also like to thank my family for all of the support, I couldn’t do it without them, and I’d especially like to thank my father, teammate and co-driver Rafael Navarro III. Thank you Dad!”