When asked during a post-race interview to describe his emotions behind one of the most dramatic, title-defining season endings in motorsport history, newly-crowned Formula 1 Champion Max Verstappen answered, “…for sure, next year we will come back and try it all over again.”
That is some radical forward-thinking for someone, who, just moments prior, crossed the finish line as the new “best race car driver in the world”.
After all is said and done, the kid hungrily wants to win more.
But then again, as any competitive person would possess, the jubilation behind every victory becomes only a fleeting moment once the focus is set on gunning for more glory.
All of them at some point would bring their heads back down, go back to the drawing board, work their butts off, and as Max said, “do it all over again.”
Now the process behind it? Well, the secret formula varies from person to person.
Just like Max, the sweet taste of victory was also shared among our homegrown race drivers and riders as the local and national racing scene drew their seasons to a close.
It was seen as a very successful revival year for Philippine Motorsports after competitions were momentarily halted last year due to the pandemic.
The year 2021 saw the ever-growing prowess of the powerhouse figures in the industry, as well as new names making waves and stories for everyone to witness.
From thrilling races won to moments recorded and long remembered, to even records shattered—the high-speed community not only saw triumph in its truest form, it also saw optimism and eagerness for “what’s next”.
And as for those, who emerged as the best of the best in each racing discipline this year, “what’s next” is already a story they’re starting to write as early as now.
We highlight five racers from various championships held nationally as they share their highlights that led them to be crowned as the overall champions of 2021, as well as where their eyes are set with the new year just a few days away.
Here’s what they had to say.
SCOOTER RACING: Vrei-ar Suba
For 2021 Philippine Scooter King Vrei-ar “RR” Suba, racing on two wheels did not come as “love at first sight.”
Although making his motorcycle racing debut at the age of 14 with team DSF (Daquigan Sports Factory), RR started off racing go-karts at a much younger age with his dad, Sonny, being his chief mechanic.
After a few years of racing karts, he felt that shifting to a different platform would give him much greater success, which proved to be such as he clinched the 115cc category overall championship on his very first year of two-wheel competition.
A few years of race experience had passed and along came more success for RR as he gradually moved up categories along the process.
“I continue to race here in the Philippines as we saw great potential for us to garner more victories. And finally, with the help of my current team Phoenix-Yamaha SEC Racing Team, we brought home the 2021 Philippine Scooter Overall Crown. I couldn’t have done it without everyone involved. All glory to God for continuously giving me strength and guidance throughout every race,” he said.
When asked about what his plans are for 2022, he gave a very short and straightforward answer — to move up and become the 2022 Philippine Underbone King.
SUPERBIKES: T.J. Alberto
Now a big name in the two-wheel racing community, 2021 Rider of the Year T.J. Alberto entered the sport with humble yet fruitful beginnings at the age of five.
“I never really had the most illustrious career as a young rider and honestly never thought I would achieve what I have achieved now. My family has always been with me from the beginning, with my father, Toti, being a Superbike Champion himself. With him to look up to, it was natural for me to follow in his footsteps when I turned 14 as I entered my first road race in the 400cc category back in 2013,” he said.
After several motocross stints as well, T.J. made the big move to race superbikes full time in 2015 and ended the year by bagging the overall championships in both the novice and intermediate categories.
Yet after deciding to finally make an all-out chase for the national crown the year after, he eventually had to put it to a pause — to make way for even bigger things! “Opportunities arose in the European and Asian circuits where in 2017, I was blessed to take part in the Italian Superbike Championship (CIV), 2018 in the WorldSBK Superstock 1000 category, and 2019 in the Asia Roadracing Championship with my own ‘family’ team, Access Plus Racing. Although these stints hampered me from making a go for the Philippine Superbike crown, I believe that those years racing away from my home country provided me with so much learning and an avenue to improve my craft. This made me enter the 2021 season, back in the National Championship, with a lot more experience and readiness to give it a good fight,” added the newly-crowned 2021 Pirelli Philippine Superbike Champion.
With 2016 and 2017 eluding him, T.J. found out that 2021 served to be the perfect time to come home and gun for national glory after the pandemic left them with no available race spots abroad.
Now equipped with more learning experiences and enhanced crafts for both he and his team, T.J. was more than ready to make his third shot at the title count the most.
And even though he was already considered as the “man to beat” mid-season, T.J. and his team never fell to complacency.
“Despite holding the championship lead, we at Access Plus Racing team never became complacent as we continued to develop and test our bike and skills to prepare for the coming races. Postponed rounds due to the circumstances of the pandemic made it even more difficult for me, as a rider, to keep focused on our goals but we knew we had to keep working every day despite setbacks in order to keep the chase for the title alive,” he said.
Constant hard work and dedication ultimately rewarded T.J. and his team as they finally bagged the Philippine Superbike Championship — beating defending champion Marvin Mangulabnan and multi-titled rider Dashi Watanabe — with one race to spare. To add more luster to his championship run, he also bagged 10 out of the 12 races held and broke the lap record at the Clark International Speedway multiple times — with his scintillating feat coming on the very last round of the series after breaking the 1:50 barrier with a record lap time of 1:49.538. Of course, after all, is said and done, T.J. never forgets to give credit where credit is due. “Racing is a combined effort between the rider, team, and the bike. We may not have had the best of each this season but we certainly had the best balance of all! I believe this season has taught me so much and has made me a more rounded racer. I’m always looking to learn more and more, and can not wait for what’s next!”
When asked about what’s next, T.J. sees his subsequent steps as an opportunity to be a responsible role model in and out of the track.
“I think carrying the number 1 plate is not easy as it comes with an added pressure and expectation to perform like a champion. It also comes with the expectation to become a great ambassador for the sport. I want to fulfill those roles and look to defend the title again next year with my Access Plus Racing team and family. I also am looking forward to doing more events again out of the country as the pandemic now dies down. I think my goal for next year is to be a podium contender in the Asia championship — using the skills that I have learned here at home,” T.J. said.
Rest assured that “home” will always be there to support you, T.J.!
DRAG RACING: Michael Daulog
Passion for anything to do with wheels started at an early age for 2021 PH Drag Racing “Driver of the Year’’ Michael Daulog.
“Way back in the 1990s, I would bring my cars to Greenhills every weekend with friends to attend car meet-ups. In addition, I would frequently watch drag races in Lagro, then would make my way to Subic and Batangas to witness some circuit-racing action. My passion for motorsports, I would say, is an understatement,” Michael said.
Although translating his love for the sport into actually competing came a few years later, he emphasizes meeting the right people at the right time paved the way for him to finally get behind the wheel competitively.
“I had the opportunity to meet my idol Ricky De Leon, who eventually became my mentor all these years. He truly helped and motivated me to become the best I can be, and gave me the mindset that being part of the best drivers in the country is definitely possible,” he said.
With the help of his team composed of Speed Precision Tuning, Sambo Autosports, Gertooning, Ryan Constantino, Boss Jao, and Derek Dy, Michael clinched the overall crown this year and also claimed victories in five out of the seven races held throughout the season. “Moving forward, this coming 2022 will be my next chapter in racing, as well as for my team, with new challenges definitely coming our way. We shall strive to win more races as we aim to make it back-to-back by this time next year. As simple as it sounds, we know it will be a difficult process, but with the right people by your side, we can surely achieve more,” he said.
CIRCUIT (Vios Cup): Estefano Rivera
For someone, who was into basketball, football, and billiards growing up, it had to take the influence of his older brother, Milo, to consider motorsports as a discipline to dip his toes in.
“I started racing in 2009 with go-karts. I was only 13-years old at that time and it was a decision that was strongly based on following the footsteps of my brother Milo, as he started racing a year before. Fortunately, for both of us, we did very well in our first respective race seasons which gave us both the confidence to take racing more seriously and to excel at it even more,” Estefano said.
From that moment on, the newly crowned 2021 Toyota Gazoo Racing Vios Cup overall champion never looked back—garnering victories left and right in both national and international competitions.
However, things never came easy for the driver, who is also the reigning National Slalom King and 2019 Formula V1 Overall Champion — recounting the years of setbacks that came his way throughout his Vios Cup journey.
“I was very blessed to have won pretty much all the championships that I got myself into. However, winning the Vios Cup was always that missing piece to the puzzle. It took us four shots at it yet prior to this year, we always fell short either to mishaps or just unlucky situations — there was always that void,” said the 25-year-old ace driver, who also added that 2021 was no exception to those season full of tough trials.
“I would say the Vios Cup is a championship that’s very close to my heart and that we’ve always had this love-hate relationship with it, especially with how we finally won the crown this year. We had a ton of setbacks as well during the middle parts of the year and for a while, I even thought that we were going to end up with the same fate once again. Yet awa ng Diyos, we finally bagged it after one of the fiercest title-deciding races I’ve ever been involved in. And I couldn’t have done all of this if it weren’t for all the people in Obengers Racing, who went out of their way and even had sleepless nights just to get our car ready to gun for the win all the time,” he said.
After finally completing his Motorsports “puzzle”, Estefano believes that 2022 is a time to give back to those who supported and helped him out through it all. “Although I can never rule out a racing seat for next year as being behind the wheel has always been my ‘second home’, my priority is to help my team (Obengers Racing) and teammates excel in their respective classes/competitions by serving as a coach for them. Yet as a driver, once an opportunity arises, be assured that I will always be more than ready to duke it out for the victory,” Estefano said.
CIRCUIT (Open wheel): Joaquin Garrido
As early as the age of six, Christopher “Joaquin” Garrido instantly figured out the sport that got him hooked.
“The very moment I first hopped into a go-kart at a local track in Park Square, Makati, it got me interested right away. Yet it took another two years when my dad enrolled me in a karting clinic when I realized—racing wasn’t just something I was interested in, it is something I love! The speed, the G-forces involved, and the adrenaline… such a high!” said Joaquin.
From that moment, Joaquin would go on to take the sport seriously and eventually garner victories and memorable stories, while competing in karting championships locally and internationally — making him an up-and-coming name to look out for.
Yet his up-and-coming status would go even a notch higher as 2021 would end up being an even bigger breakthrough year for Joaquin. Not only did he clinch several overall karting plums once again, he proved to the motorsports community that he was more than ready for the bigger stage.
The 2020 Karter of the Year and 2021 ROK Senior Class Champion also competed in the recently concluded 2021 GITI Formula V1 Challenge under Phoenix Pulse Racing and showed everyone what he was capable of—bagging the 2021 AM Class Overall Crown and even duking it out with the PRO Class drivers in the process, to the amazement and surprise of everyone in attendance.
“2021 was a year to remember! It was my first time to move up and race actual open-wheel race cars, and I even got to dice it out with racing idols such as Milo Rivera, Eduardo Coseteng, and Daniel Miranda during my Formula V1 stint. Truly grateful for the opportunity and I can’t wait for what’s coming our way next,” he said.
Joaquin is keeping his options wide open for 2022, yet has very big ambitions in sight.
“If it permits, Europe here we come! Yet if not so fortunate, racing in Formula V1 once again with the pros would be just as great. Plus I’m very much looking forward to our Formula V1 race in Suzuka Circuit, Japan come July of next year,” Joaquin said.
Such straightforward and confident words from a champion who is only 15-years-old!