Over the past few years we’ve seen a couple of Tarmac racers won over by the charms of gravel stage rally in the US, the most all-in of them being Kyle Tilley who jumped straight into an R5 after just one event in a Limited class Evo.
But while that was happening, another racer with similar asphalt success and newfound rally love was building a name for himself in the Limited class, and his name is Dylan Murcott.
Murcott has been in contention for the LN4 National championship this year, and currently sits second after some jostling of position earlier in the year, and even a brief stint at number one.
Murcott is a racing instructor at the Monticello Motor Club in New York, where his co-workers include two former US rally champions Chris Duplessis and Troy Miller.
While loose surface auto racing is new for Murcott, he still has some experience on the dirt.
“I started my racing career by doing motocross,” Murcott told DirtFish. “When I was 16, I did that for a few years.
“I ended up breaking my neck actually, in 2010. I fractured two vertebrae in my neck, and I was in a neck-brace for six months. I got out of motocross after that happened.
“I moved over to amateur SCCA racing in a Spec-Miata, I did that for two years and ended up getting a pro license in 2013 and pretty much ran IMSA from 2013 to about 2020.
“I won two championships in IMSA, one in 2015 in a Lamborghini Super Trofeo, and in 2017 I won the IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Series in a GT4 Porsche. So those pretty much were my two big accomplishments, winning two championships in IMSA.
“[I was] part-time in NASCAR, 2018 in the NASCAR Xfinity series and then in 2020, I moved over to rally. I did a few rallies in 2020 and 2021, and this year in 2022 was my attempt at my first full season going for the championship in LN4.”
After the first event in 2020 I got completely hooked, and knew I was never turning back to TarmacDylan Murcott on his first taste of rallying
While Murcott had never hit a stage until 2020, he still had some experience in the ruins of his back-yard motocross practice track.
“I used to buy cheap beater cars, essentially, I’d get them from like a junkyard or something. I’d have a bunch of friends over and just drive the cars on my track.
“I have a half-mile rallycross track in my backyard. It used to be a motocross track. I completely flattened it out and turned it into a car track and we started doing that with my friends and what not.
“I’ve always been a fan of rally ever since day one. I’ve always played the video games or watched on TV. I never really knew the best way in and my co-worker and friend Troy Miller, he was really big into the rally scene, and he kind of got me into it.
“He actually let me rent his car and he co-drove for me in 2020 at the New York Forest Rally. He let me rent the car for super cheap which was really cool of him to do that. After the first event in 2020 I got completely hooked, and knew I was never turning back to Tarmac.
“So, in 2020, after that first event that I did with Troy, I bought his car and he won the 2016 Super-Production championship in Rally America. So it was a championship car that I bought off of him.
“I ran that for my first four races, I ended up actually totaling it last year at New England, we front flipped two times over a tree, which was really stupid on my part.
“We were second in class, I had like 90 seconds over third, I was pushing to catch Arek Bialobrzeski, and I made a mistake.
“I didn’t hear that the road tightens, and I was back on the power, the road tightened and I went into a ditch and I flipped and landed on the roof and pretty much totaled the car.
“Luckily, at that time I already had another car in the process of being built and I started running that car at the end of last year and so pretty much the car that I’m in right now is a home-built car and the car was built here in Massachusetts by a shop called Tailored Chassis Solutions. It was the first rally car they have built, and they pretty much have done a hell of a job building that car.”
Of course, rally isn’t just about the driver or the car, you wouldn’t be anywhere without a good co-driver that you can mesh well with, and Murcott found that early on in Andrew Sims.
“I was co-driving with Troy Miller last year, and Andrew Sims, he was driving with Patrick Gruszka. We were chatting a little bit during services and whatnot, and Troy ended up not being able to co-drive with me for the rest of the year in 2021,” Murcott explained.
“So, I reached out to Andrew, we ran STPR together last year in a brand-new car that had no testing on it. We won STPR last year our first time together and then we talked out a deal to run this season together.
“Pretty much every event that we finished we came in either second or first, so combined between the five events that we have finished, we came second three times, and have two wins. So that’s a pretty good history together with one another, especially in the competitive LN4 class. So we definitely get along very well.
“What’s really nice about him, and same thing with me, is that if we do something wrong or we call a note wrong or I go through the corner wrong, we both own up to it and we admit our mistakes.
“Having a really good relationship with your co-driver is owning up to the mistakes and learning how to get better from them and not denying it and learn not to make that mistake again. So pretty much anytime that one of us made a mistake, we’ve talked about it and we’ve moved past it and have been able to get better.”
So with the two working together extremely well, the match-made-in-heaven team set off on a hunt for the 2022 LN4 championship. Starting off strong with a second place at the 100 Acre Wood Rally, they moved into the west coast events where they were really able to prove their worth.
“It was awesome being away from the east coast,” Murcott explained. “I love going out west.
“I raced out there a bunch when I was running in IMSA, but the gravel was significantly different than what it is here, and especially at Olympus it was really muddy for one of the days. Trying to drive in the really slippery mud, it was definitely a challenge.
“But it definitely helped that my co-driver, Andrew, he’s run both of those events three times out on the west coast. So he helped me a lot trying to get through the events and to be smart, and we actually ended up winning the Olympus Rally and coming second in Oregon. So that’s a pretty good west coast swing for us with a first and a second.”
What Murcott really loved about the west coast, however, was the Tarmac stages of Oregon Trail Rally.
“It felt absolutely amazing running on full Tarmac stages on our triple 8 Toyos, that was a lot of fun, probably some of the most fun I’ve had so far this year were those Tarmac stages just because my background, I’ve done over a hundred twenty races in my life on Tarmac so having that knowledge definitely gave me the confidence and I hope one day I can have that confidence on gravel like I do on Tarmac.”
The car showed up pretty much only a handful of minutes before we made it on to stageDylan Murcott on the impact of his troubled SOFR
“More Tarmac stages would be incredible. Even maybe a full Tarmac rally in the National schedule would be amazing. I would love to drive a rally car, with a Tarmac setup rather than just Tarmac tires on gravel suspension. I would love to try to see the difference and how great the car would handle.”
One other full Tarmac stage awaited Murcott before the end of the year though, and that was the opening superspecial of the Southern Ohio Forest Rally. Only 0.96 miles, it barely counts as a Tarmac stage, but unfortunately for Murcott, this would be the first big issue the team would face in the season.
“So entering Ohio we were first in points and we really hadn’t been pushing the whole year,” Murcott explained. “We’ve been taking things easy, and then just kind of letting the chips fall where they may.
As Murcott had run the rally before, and Sims being a local to the area, they both agreed that this was the rally they were going to start pushing hard.
“Obviously, we pushed a little too hard in the first stage and overshot the jump and caused a lot of damage to the front end. And we had to retire out of Ohio, put a whole new front clip on the car.”
While it looked incredible, the jump did huge damage to the Subaru, and it was delivered, literally, last minute for the next round in New England.
“The car showed up pretty much only a handful of minutes before we made it on to stage,” Murcott said.
But the car wasn’t quite in perfect condition. Mismatched body panels, bad alignment, and no wing was just the start of it.
Pressing on, however, Murcott embodied the spirit of rallying by driving as hard as he could, and pushing despite the hardships.
“Pretty much after day one at New England, the car got essentially much better. They realigned the car and it was great.
“The first stage, I think we were like seventh or eighth overall and second or third in class. It was real good for even having a bent strut in the rear. They aligned it to pretty much get the strut as straight as possible.”
Unfortunately, despite the valiant effort, another issue reared its head to take them out of the rally.
“In New England we ended up losing the motor, but Ohio and New England were completely unrelated.
“We’d been having motor issues all year, we’ve been having overheating issues all year. The car has been running 230, 240 degrees pretty much every stage this year and we knew sooner or later that that motor was going to let go. And unfortunately for us it let go in New England.
“Definitely not ideal, it’s put us in a pretty big points hole after New England, and I don’t know if we’re going to have a motor in time honestly for Ojibwe, so we might be missing Ojibwe, because of having motor issues and whatnot.
“This car is definitely built to the best of its abilities and we’re definitely driving it to the best of our ability, but it’s not a factory-built car.
“It’s not like a Rally3 car or even an R2. They’re sensitive home-built cars and home-built cars are, in my opinion, not meant to do what we’re putting it through. It’s a tough situation, you can only really do so much.
“So hopefully we can find a motor for Ojibwe but it’s not looking too good. We have a few other issues besides the motor so it looks like when you’re going to be missing Ojibwe and back for STPR, hopefully we don’t lose too many points off missing Ojibwe.”
Everybody's trying to help each other out, nobody is really coming at each other's throatsDylan Murcott on why he enjoys rallying
While that leaves Murcott’s championship hopes looking somewhat dire, there’s still hope, and we won’t see him back out easily.
But even if we don’t see Murcott take gold in the LN4 championship this year, it’s certainly not going to be the last time we see him on US stages.
“I love rally,” he said, “I love all the competitors, it’s a very friendly service area, and I never really see that in other forms of motorsports.
“Everybody’s trying to help each other out, nobody is really coming at each other’s throats. That’s a big, big change coming from the pavement side where everybody’s out to get one another.
“I definitely wish I started rally earlier, I kind of started pretty late I feel like at almost 30 years old, but I definitely want to be doing this for as long as I can with the funding going forward to do as much as I can. Maybe move into something faster in and better built for next year.
“The dream would be to run the full ARA season and half of the WRC events. That would be the ultimate goal but that’s kind of a pipe-dream, it really all depends on funding at this point.
“I’ve definitely thought about [WRC]. Mexico would definitely be the top one. I’d like to do Mexico and Finland and, honestly, Japan. Japan would be one of the ones I really want to do because of it being a full Tarmac rally.
“And I’d love to see what an R5 can do in a full Tarmac-spec. That would be incredible. And I feel me and Andrew could do well, we adapt pretty quickly to new cars and what not. And I think that that’s something we could simply be somewhat competitive in.”
So while championship hopes are up in the air with Murcott’s motor issues, if you’re looking for a true rally loving guy with his eyes set firmly on the sport for his future racing endeavors to root for, Murcott might just be your guy.