Photo by Lester Dizon
I’ve always savored the chance to compete in motorsports. Be it four wheels or two, on-road or off-road, street or circuit, wheel-to-wheel or time trials, speed contests or economy runs. I’ve always known that motorsports is a rich man’s game and that I’m not a wealthy man. When an opportunity arises to join a race for free as a media participant, I jump almost immediately at the chance and grab it.
Thus, when Toyota Motor Philippines invited members of the motoring media to register and for us to represent Power Wheels and the Manila Standard for this year’s Round 1 of the Vios Autocross Challenge, which will kick off the 2019 Toyota Vios Racing Festival, I immediately volunteered. I’ve had some experience in auto slalom and gymkhana racing and I was hoping to hone my driving skills again. I was psyching and preparing myself for the races when a simple lifting incident gave me a herniated or slipped disc, which caused me a lot of pain whenever I try to bend my back or even walk.
Despite my back pain, I decided to honor my commitment and go to the autocross practice and qualifying sessions on Saturday morning (April 27) at the open grounds of the SM Mall of Asia (MOA) in Pasay City. I took two pain killers to mask the back pain that I was feeling, waited for my turn to drive one of the specially-prepared 2019 Toyota Vios race cars, specifically one that will be used by celebrity Gerald Anderson, squeezed myself into the safety roll bar-equipped race car, and then tackled the course that JP Tuason and his boys laid out on the race course.
The “race course” was a mirror track that was quite technical. We were tasked to do our Practice and Qualifying runs on Track B, where most of the turns were right turns, save for one 180-degree left turn, on that Saturday and then race for the Elimination and Championship rounds the next day, Sunday (April 28) on Track A, where most of the turns were left turns, except for one 180-degree right turn. During my practice run on Track B, I finished the course in 1 minute and 30 seconds (1:30), which was not bad, considering my lack of seat time and my bad back, which kept me from focusing on the race.
It’s Just a Matter of Focus
Of course, getting in and out of a Vios race car with a bolstered OMP racing seat, 4-point racing harness, and roll cage while wearing a racing suit and a helmet is not a pleasant proposition for an out-of-shape 50-plus aspiring racer suffering from a painful slipped disc, regardless of how many pain killers taken. There was no pain during the race but once the adrenaline wore off, the pain became excruciating. So much so, that I opted not to get in for a second practice run. Yet oddly, I was beginning to enjoy myself despite the pain.
After lunch, we were called back to the race course for our individual Qualifying runs. I was strapped into the race car of celebrity Troy Montero, focused a bit more on the track than on my back pain, and cut my time by 8 seconds, bringing my qualifying time down to 1 minute and 22 seconds (1:22.13) and landing in ninth place among twenty media qualifiers. I was very pleased with my time, although I know I can do better if I can only concentrate more. I also know that my doctor won’t be pleased if he found out what I was doing. Oh, well…
Eliminated on Sunday
Whatever fun and mental preparation I had on Saturday went out the door on Sunday. For one, it took me almost two hours just to get up from bed. Ouch, my back pain was back with a vengeance! Then, when I finally got to the autocross racing grounds at MOA, the practice sessions were over. So, I didn’t have any time on Track A where we were going to race for the Elimination rounds. Out of the 20 media participants, only the top 8 will go into the next round, and then only four will go into the Finals, where only the Top Three will be given trophies.
Using the racing Vios of celebrity Aubrey Miles, I went through the race course unprepared, nearly missing a gate, and turned in a time that was almost the same as my qualifying time of 1:22.13. Or maybe worse… Eight media participants turned in respectable times that were 6 to 7 seconds faster and I got promptly eliminated. Former racer turned journalist Mike Potenciano of MP Turbo and C! Magazine, who clocked the best time (1:15) during qualifying, was likewise eliminated because he got lost in the course and got a DNF (Did Not Finish). I teased Mike that I believe that James Deakin carries a commentator’s curse because every time he comments on a driver’s outstanding performance while driving on the track, something will go wrong. James mentioned that Mike was a leading contender and promptly got eliminated.
Despite my bad performance and my painful predicament, I had a lot of fun! Likewise, it felt so good that despite my ailment, I was able to keep my commitment to participate in the races. I also salute my colleagues from the media who turned in commendable fast times, as well as the members of the car clubs, the influencers, and the celebrities – Gerald Anderson, Daniel Matsunaga, Chief Filomeno, Gretchen Ho, Aubrey Miles, Troy Montero and Fabio Ide – who drove their best and turned in impressive lap times. Here are the official results:
I hope to be able to join the second round of the 2019 Toyota Vios Racing Festival to be held in June at the Clark International Speedway in Pampanga. The Vios Autocross Challenge was organized by Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP), the country’s No. 1 automotive brand, in cooperation with Bridgestone, the world’s No. 1 tire brand, and in partnership with Petron, the Philippines’ No. 1 fuel and oil company. This exciting racing activity was supported by Motul lubricants, Rota wheels, and Toyota Racing Development (TRD), and sponsored in part by Toyota Racing School, Brembo brakes, Denso spark plugs, AVT in-car entertainment and connectivity, 3M Crystalline automotive tint, OMP racing safety equipment, and Tuason Racing School. See you next time at Clark, or better yet… Race you there!
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