A family rally for the Gilivers

The Sunrise RallySport team, from left, Lenny Giliver and his sons Phillip and David, have started competing in the American Rally Association. Photo by Spenser Hasak

Phillip Giliver and his brother, David, have been around cars their entire lives. After moving to the United States from Russia in the ‘90s, their father, Lenny, opened up an auto shop on the Lynnway, mostly specializing in Japanese vehicles.

The Sunrise RallySport rally-spec 2006 Toyota Yaris.

Prior to that, Lenny had been a co driver in the Soviet Union when he was younger. So it’s only natural that Phillip wanted to become a racecar driver himself from a young age. That dream has now become a reality as Phillip and his team, consisting of his father and brother, completed their first rally race two weeks ago.

After starting his own team, Sunrise RallySport, Phillip drove to a fourth-place finish at an event out in Michigan.

Rally racing is a motorsport that takes place on a specified public or private course, with a driver and navigator. Rather than physically competing against other racers for placement, the goal of rallying is to get from one stage of the course to another in the fastest time possible, pitting the driver and navigator against time and nature.

While the motorsport has a large following in Europe, rally racing hasn’t quite caught on in the States yet. However, those who dare to sign up for it have an intense passion that is much needed for success. 

Before the day of the race, Phillip and his navigator will do a slow drive through the course, typically in a rental car. The navigator will jot down notes for nearly every twist, turn, bump, and hole in the road.

During the race, the navigator will communicate those notes in real time to the driver through microphones installed in their helmets.

“While it’s a fast sport, it’s a very precise sport,” Phillip said. “You need to know down to the hundredth of a mile where you are.”

“It’s a brains and muscles sort of situation,” David added. 

While it’s a costly hobby in terms of time and effort, that works out just fine for Phillip, who is an aerospace engineer by day. 

“I’m an engineer, he’s (David) an engineer by training. This is kind of a showcase of what we can build. We’re building it and competing in it, so it’s a point of pride,” Phillip said. 

With the sport already in the family, it wasn’t a question of if Phillip would start rally racing, but just a matter of when. 

In 2020, he found the right fit, a 2006 Toyota Yaris. Though the car was in need of pretty heavy repair due to how its last owner had driven it, it had been previously owned by five rally racers, which made Phillip feel that he had made the right choice for his first car.

“This has actually been a starter car for a few people. It’s a fun lineage,” Phillip said. 

The first official race with the car was in 2022, however it was called off after an accident involving another car.

But this time around, they were able to not only finish the race, but earn a top-five finish. With one full race now under their belts, Phillip said the next steps for the team are to get to more events and continue dropping their times.

Even though Phillip is the one with two hands on the wheel, he says none of it is possible without his team.

“The only way this works is because he’s completely onboard,” Phillip said, pointing to his father. “I’m putting in effort, I have help from my family. If it was without any of that, this would be impossible.”

“People just want to help out and it’s definitely a team sport,” he added. 

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  • Ryan Vermette is the Item's Marblehead reporter. He graduated from Springfield College in 2021 with a Bachelor's degree in Communications/Sports Journalism. While in school, he wrote multiple sports articles for the school newspaper, the Springfield Student, and joined Essex Media Group in August, 2022. Ryan is a college basketball fanatic and an avid Boston sports fan and in his free time, enjoys video games and Marvel movies.