Going all-in to live the rallying dream

A career in rallying can require big sacrifices, but Danny Shalev wasn't afraid to make a big move to pursue his dream


How far would you go to follow your dream? A few hundred miles? Maybe 1000? Danny Shalev was willing to go further than that. Much further. He didn’t just cross a state line. He crossed an ocean.

Four years ago, the Californian upped sticks and moved to the UK to pursue a career in rallying. His inspiration for the life-changing decision came from friends he met while wrenching on his first car, and a trip to DirtFish Rally School of course.

It’s been an incredible journey for 23-year-old Shalev, who is now competing in Britain’s BTRDA series in a Toyota GT86 while he plans his ascent of the rallying ladder.


A three-day DirtFish course and Eric Schofhauser's expert instruction cemented Shalev's belief that rallying was for him

It all started when a young Shalev got his drivers’ license. Influenced by legendary Japanese racer Keiichi Tsuchiya, he dreamed of owning a Toyota AE86 and, after some convincing, his parents helped make it happen.

“I basically made a sales pitch to my parents where I had nothing to offer,” he laughs, “At the time, there was a Corolla on sale, a really clean example, with only 80,000 miles.

“So, I picked it up, and I’m so glad I got that car. I would do everything with it, so that’s how I learned.”

Through the Corolla, Shalev met some mechanics in Los Angeles who competed on local rallies in the 1990s, which prompted him to start watching old rally footage.

“I saw that and I said to myself, “I have to try this,”” Shalev explained, “I can’t not know what it’s like to experience, I just thought it was so cool.”


Toyotas are in Shalev's blood – he drifted a Corolla AE86 before he started rallying a GT86

A trip to DirtFish in 2019 provided the opportunity, and driving on gravel for the first time came as quite a shock: “It was definitely a massive style change. It took a lot of effort for me to adjust, but the instructors were so good. By the third day it felt really good, so I was really happy with that.”

The stages were waiting, but a mechanical issue forced him out of his first event, the Gorman Ridge Rally that same year, but the bug had well and truly bitten. Shalev wanted more and, as he saw it, there was only one way to get it: move overseas.

It was time for another pitch to his parents, this time suggesting he should move to the UK to study. With their agreement, he approached the governing body, Motorsport UK and, after some back and forth, was accepted into MUK’s Academy program at Loughborough University.

“It was a very big jump and a big thing for me to do. But I viewed it very simply: the UK is racing country… and they speak English.”

The idea was to do as many rallies as possible and, although things got off to a slow start due to the global pandemic, Shalev managed to win the BTRDA Rally First category in 2023. After that success, he was ready for more powerful machinery, prompting a switch to his current Toyota GT86.


Engine failure at the Malcolm Wilson Rally in March interrupted Shalev's 2024 program

An engine failure on the Malcolm Wilson Rally has disrupted what should have been a packed schedule in 2024, but Shalev has still been loving competing on UK soil.

“Yeah, it’s really incredible,” he said, “The BTRDA events, like the Nicky Grist [in Wales] – which is by far my favorite event – were absolutely incredible. I really, really like it, it’s so cool.”

With the Toyota now back to full health, the plan is for a return to Wales and the Nicky Grist Stages next month. After that, it’s full speed ahead to gain as much experience as possible.

“I see results like Kalle Rovanperä,” Shalev says, “I know it’s a crazy comparison, but he’s been driving 10 rallies a year since he could drive, so I’m like, if I’m not doing that, then where else would the commitment be?”

Shalev has continued to work with Motorsport UK Academy coach Adam Gould, with the former Pirelli Star Driver helping with plans for 2025.


Shalev is eyeing a spot in the Stellantis Motorsport Rally Cup UK for Rally4 cars in 2025

“My top pick would be the Stellantis Motorsport Rally Cup UK with the Rally4 cars,” Shalev said, “It would just be a matter of finding where I get the funding and how to put it together. And just, yeah, the same priority as this year, to try and do as many rallies as possible.”

But the dream wasn’t to come to the UK and just do British Rally Championship events, so is Shalev allowing himself to dream about a possible future in the WRC?

“Absolutely,” he says, “I feel you have to see the end to know where to even start in a way. It’s one of the things they had us do at the Academy, to really think about our careers. Ultimately, my dream is to be in WRC, so I’m always thinking about the way to get there.”