The American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National Championship has welcomed quite a few international guest appearances over the past year.
From the likes of Josh McErlean to Marty McCormack, many drivers have come to take the wheel in the US for an event or two. But more exciting is when we see a team decide to take root in US soil and begin building a US operation, similar to how Irishman Barry McKenna started his McKenna Motorsport empire.
Javier Castro, rally driver and director of RC Competición, has seen this international interest and decided to set up shop in the US and get into the ARA as soon as he can.
RC Competición is a rally team from Cordoba, Argentina known for their Toyota Hilux Dakar trucks as well as their Toyota Etios rally cars. The team is the official Oreca representative for America – Oreca being the official FIA supplier of R4 kits – meaning it plans not only to race, but also to build competition at the R4 level in the US.
While waiting for its car to clear customs, Castro and the team have been travelling to various ARA events in 2021, learning more about the series and helping some other teams along the way.
This all started when Castro and the team reached out to ARA competition director Preston Osborn to get an idea of how feasible it would be to start running in the series. Osborn was very welcoming to the idea, and encouraged the team to come out to a race to see what it can expect.
Castro and some of his crew who were on site were blown away by the amount of fans and competitors there were.
“I got word that the ARA is starting to grow more, and get more of a base,” Castro explained at New England Forest Rally this year.
“After seeing all these people it really motivated us to come out here and bring our operations. Now we know after seeing all these people that there really is a following and we can really build a team.
“We’re enthusiastic about how well organized they are, how they follow the rules, how a lot of the spectators listen to the instructors as opposed to out in Argentina where it’s a lot harder to get spectators to follow the rules.
“We came here with low expectations and really just were overwhelmed with the positivity all around, the energy. We’re hopeful we can build a fanbase out here as well,” Castro added.
“We really think our product will succeed here in the US and build a new chapter, and a new category with the R4, and maybe bring in buyers. Ideally, we even want to start speaking to Toyota.”
The plan for RC Competición is two-fold. First, it’ll start using its Toyota Etios R4 to compete in the RC2 class in the ARA National series with Castro at the helm, and, from there, build its fleet out to start creating options for drivers who want to start racing at this level.
As Castro put it: “Ideally what I want to do is bring our R4 cars up here, our fabrication, to give competitors another vehicle that smaller racers or other teams can use.”
But let’s take a second to explain the R4 as it’s a pretty new thing for the ARA.
The FIA-designated R4 class is very similar to a Proto car like we’ve seen Pat Brennan or Piotr Fetela use in the ARA in the past – the proto car utilizing R5 looks with a standardized Mitsubishi Evo drivetrain.
The R4 similarly uses a spec motor, transmission and other components across the field, except the R4 is FIA-compliant in the RC2 class along with the slightly faster R5 (now Rally2) cars. Oreca sells an FIA-approved kit for about $125,000 that includes all of the spec-built parts necessary for a car to be R4 compliant.
I think users will get a sense of what it’s like to drive a vehicle right underneath an R5Javier Castro
This kit includes a 263bhp, 1.6-liter turbo-four, sequential transmission, running gear, suspension and more; all of which can be applied to basically any production vehicle and made FIA-compliant. A turn-key car can be bought for about $200,000.
“Our vehicle, our fabrication, our process and everything is one step below the R5,” Castro explained. “We hope that these racers in the US can use their vehicle, try it out, test it out, and practice with it.
“I feel like we have a really nice vehicle, good components in the fabrication process, and I think that users will get a sense of what it’s like to drive a vehicle right underneath an R5.”
While $200k is by no means on the same level of affordability as a limited-class vehicle, for competitors who want FIA compatibility to potentially run internationally for $50,000 less than an R5, and 40% less operating costs, the R4 class offers 90% of the performance and a great stepping stone for people serious about rally.
While Castro will finally be making his US debut at next weekend’s Oregon Trail Rally, it wasn’t easy getting the Toyota Etios R4 into the country having been tied up in customs for a few months.
While the car is estimated to be about 0.5-1 second per mile slower than the R5 class, it will be interesting to see how Castro’s skills from Argentina stack up against the likes of John Coyne, Dave Wallingford, Hamed Al Wahaibi and Enda McCormack as the other RC2 entrants at OTR.
Regardless, it’s encouraging to see yet another enthusiastic and committed driver join the American rallying community.
“Thank you for the opportunity,” Castro said of racing in the ARA back at NEFR. “Thank you for opening your arms to us, we hope to see you again soon.”