Design Craft – 5 Minutes with Gary Castillo

Gary Castillo - Lending a hand with the build of the Team America Time Attack R32 GTR

We interviewed Time Attack fabricator Gary Castillo to find out his thoughts on the world of Time Attack and his business Design Craft.

How did your business start?

I’ve always been into working on cars since I was a kid. I started out just working on friend’s cars out of my parent’s garage and it eventually moved to working at local speed shops where I lived. I would say my big break came when I started writing for a couple of car magazines as a technical editor (Turbo Magazine, Import Tuner, and Honda Tuning). I ended up meeting a lot of people through the magazine and a lot of them I call close friends now but regardless I made a lot of connections there. While still working at the magazines I was building cars on the side. I was lucky enough that the guys out of Apexi Integration rented me enough space out of their warehouse. I would trade work out with them on fabrication work on their race cars in turn they would allow me to work on cars I had to build for other people.

What made me finally leave the magazine was when I got an offer to build a drift car for a company called RSR out of Japan. I wanted to take the job but I couldn’t because the spot I rented (APEXi) was a competing manufacture. That’s when I had to make the decision of stay writing for the magazine or start my own shop.

I got really lucky after I left the magazine cause work just came pouring in and the best part about it was it was work for other aftermarket parts manufactures. We were taking cars that were for any type of motorsport. Drift, rally, drag racing, off road, didn’t matter, I think that being open-minded about all motorsports is key to being a good fabrication shop.

What are the key elements you bring to Time Attack racing?

I like to think people bring me cars to get my insight on design. Its one thing if you are a guy with a welder and fabrication equipment that can build a cage but it’s another to be open minded enough to try something different. If you drop a car off at the shop and give me the blueprint to how you want it build I’ll do it no questions asked but don’t ask my opinion if its good or bad design. If you drop off a car and say, “What do you think we should do?” then I’ll unleash a whole different world of theories I would like to try. I would have to say one of the main key elements I offer in a time attack build is the ability to think outside the box on all aspects of the car. From suspension design, aero, engine and electronics, I like to have a hand in all of it.

How does what you do benefit your Time Attack customers?

I will state I’m not an engineering but I let my trackside experience do the talking. I tend to have a big grip about engineers. Not so much all of them but only the ones that aren’t willing to get under the car to see how things work rather than just saying it works cause it worked on their computer simulation. I’m very lucky that I have a few engineer buddies that I have a lot of respect for because they do come to the shop to get their hands dirty and see how it works in the real world. I wish I had the math to be an engineer because I bet I would have built a rocket ship to get to the moon by now haha. In saying that some of the benefits that people have with me whether it is working at a track with a team or building a car for a team is the problem solving abilities. Don’t ever tell me, “It’s impossible.” Or “That won’t fit.” I take those words as a personal call out and I’ll do everything I can to prove you wrong. I’m a bit hardheaded like that but in most cases I’ll figure out a solution. Another benefit I have is the ability to know just enough about everything on a racecar to see how it will all apply. I’ve done everything from built 1000 horsepower engines to tuning them myself. Not stopping there, I’ve build and designed suspension set ups, created my own aero parts and wired racecars. It’s not fair to say I’m the best at all of it but being the jack of all trades and master of “some” helps out a ton when working for a race team.

What do you enjoy about being involved with Time Attack series?

As much as it is driver versus driver it is also shop versus shop or even theory versus theory. What got me into racing was street drag racing in San Diego. At that time it wasn’t necessarily shop versus shop since there weren’t very many around at the time but what it did do was gather all your friends to concentrate on making their/our cars faster than the rest of the crews on the street. It was a battle to see who could cross the finish line first so being king of the street meant doing whatever necessary to be the fastest. In time attack it is much of the same thing but it’s a battle against the clock rather than who crossed the line first. You might as well call it drag racing with left and right turns, up and down hill and on and off camber turns. Time attack presents a sense of pride in what you built and when you lose you just want to try harder to get the lap time at any cost.

What are some new/interesting technologies you’re seeing coming into Time Attack?

One of the coolest things that seems to be the biggest hypes is designs in aero. There are pluses and minuses about it but I do enjoy seeing small winglets, diffuser designs and small gimmicks that actually do help the car run quicker. One of the things that annoy me about aero designs is the fact that unlimited/pro class don’t have very many regulations on aero in terms of size. Everyone now is on the, “bigger is better” yet it’s getting harder and harder for people to look at the car without knowing what kind of car it started out as. People are more interested in building bat mobiles to go fast without even caring about the reason they bought the car was probably the fact that car looked cool. Now it’s about making the car ugly but saying, “but did you see how fast it went!” If I was told stacking dog poo on my hood a foot high on my hood would knock a full second off my time doesn’t mean I’m going to do it. I feel that people jump to, “bigger is better” without even maxing out what they currently have. However, I will admit there is a huge benefit to aero but in my own words, the average guy still needs to be able to look at the car and say, “Look that’s a (make and model.” If time attack continues in this path I fear that people will start to lose interest and that is exactly what happened in the peak of import drag racing. When cars stopped looking like cars then everyone became more interested in other things rather than import drag racing. It took years for import drag racing to gain momentum again and look at the cars now, they are even faster and look like stock body cars again.

Can you tell us about some Time Attack vehicles you have been involved with?

There are some that I’ve built from ground up and there are ones that I do small fab work on. The first time attack car I help build was for the very first time attack event in the US. I was lucky enough to have a hand in the Sparaco Mitsubishi EVO. This was at a time when the Evolution first debuted in the States with a factory AWD turbo model. At the first ever Super Lap Battle, the car won street class and only off by less than a second to the limited class AWD class.

One of the pride and joy cars that we did was the BC/C West S2000. I show a lot of favoritism towards S2000s and Hondas in general so to win the Redline Time Attack Series in 2008 with this car was extra special. Mr. Omoto, owner of C West, had the car sitting in his US office and since we knew each other I asked him why it’s not competing anymore and if it was ok if we used it to run in the Redline time attack series. He explained there wasn’t a budget for it and if I wanted to do it I would have to fund it myself. I did and with the help of Brian Crower (BC) and a handful of parts sponsors we won the championship and set records on most of the tracks we ran on.

I also had a hand in building the Team America R32 GTR. It was fun to problem solve fitment issues cause a lot of it was state of the art. In saying that, I will say even though I built the aero, I was not a fan of the design. It was the bigger is better theory yet somewhat borderline of what I would want. This car has ran but is now in the process of getting rebuild. The owner still want to run the car but there is no urgency to getting it running as soon as possible. I’ve since moved on to other time attack builds.

The two cars I currently have at the shop that we are building include two Subarus. One, currently still holds a few track records but had been shelved years ago. Now the owner, JC Meynet, is wanting to change a few things on his ‘06 to update it to the current rulebook. I really like the way JC thinks out the theories on the design build of his car so it will be cool to see this car run. The other is an ’09 GE WRX owned by Richard Klien. We jumped on board mid-way through the build to finish what was not but this car is coming out pretty nice. We were lucky enough that the previous fab work was done very well so there wasn’t the need to redo fab work, only add on to it. It should debut in 2017 and be a fast car in its class.

The last car that I’m working on is my personal S2000. I don’t have much time to work on my own car since my customers cars take so much fab time. It’s a car I’ve been planning in my head for years. Little by little I’ve been collecting parts for it and was hoping to have it ready by this year but looks like I’m going to have to wait until 2017. I will say this, when it is done it will be like no other S2000. It will eventually run fast but I have some many different theories going into it that I know it will be a handful on its debut. Once the bugs are worked out I expected it to be a front runner in US time attack. There is so much untried theories on it that I know plenty of shakedown test will be in order.

What advice have you got for people building their Time Attack cars?

If I’m going to say anything it is purely out of experience from building time attack cars for other people. For starters, if you plan on building a car for yourself and haven’t driven professionally in any series don’t try and build a 1000 horsepower car and think you can drive it to its potential right out of the gate. Every car needs a baseline to go off of so start out modest on power and drive it to its full potential. In saying that, I see too many people do this “monkey see monkey do” thing. Whatever the fastest guy has they want the same thing not even knowing if it applies to their build. Another thing I believe in is, “it’s better to go race at the track with the car 80% than it is too miss races.” Just because you are waiting to get the next latest and greatest wing, splitter, coilover or whatever it is doesn’t mean you should miss a race with a perfectly good running racecar. I see too many build that are half done cause they want to change things cause the parts are now outdated by one event and everyone is now doing something else. Don’t be that guy that says I have all the best parts that are out for my car so I should be fast right out of the gate. Odds are it will take time to go fast so you are better off getting data by going to the track rather than just going out and buying what someone is using because they are winning. Those people are winning because they are at the track trying things on their car and getting data. Lastly, don’t build batmobiles! Yes, that 8 foot by 8 foot splitter will work but if you haven’t exploited the full potential of your car and you jump straight to a huge splitter, wing or diffuser then odds are you find out your car is more efficient with just a 3 foot by 6 foot splitter. It’s kind of funny cause I sound like a hypocrite based on your last question but the difference is, I’m not driving my car…at least not in competition.

What is your future in Time Attack and where can you see the class as a whole going?

I would like to continue building time attack cars and trying different theories I have to go faster. If ever bolt on part was the end all to going fast than I think I would stop building them. I have more fun creating things that are different and testing if they work rather than just bolting ready to go parts on a car.

As far as classes are concerned, I’m not a rule maker I just try to exploit the grey areas.

The C-West S2000, one of Gary's favourite Time Attack Builds he's been involved with.
The C-West S2000, one of Gary's favourite Time Attack Builds he's been involved with.
Richard Klein GE 09 WRX
Richard Klein GE 09 WRX
Sparco EVO 10
Sparco EVO 10