It’s a fact skillfully concealed by seasoned organizers but truth be told, a car race is a show, no matter its scale. The race track provides a safe venue for a driver to show his skills at speed; the race car is a modified version to show its capabilities at the limit; the race itself is a show to entertain and dazzle the audience with speed; and the pre-race and post-race activities are opportunities to showcase the sponsors’ products, show the drivers to their fans, and award the best drivers to showcase their talents. The racing posters promote the car race in the same manner that entertainment posters promote movie shows, TV shows, stage shows or live shows. Indeed, a car race is a show.
The first leg of the 2019 Toyota Racing Festival held last June 8, 2019 at the Clark International Speedway in Pampanga closely subscribed to this idea and more. It was a great show for the audience with three exciting races pitting the celebrities and professional race car drivers against each other, wheel-to-wheel, for 12 laps per race. Then, there was the second round of the Vios Autocross Challenge, where participants from the car clubs, the media, and the social media influencers pit their driving skills against the clock in a gymkhana track layout. And of course, there were the pre-race opening activities and post-race awarding ceremonies that surprised not only the audience but the participants as well.
Behind the Scenes
What most of the audience does not know is that there are a lot of preparations before a show. The day before the actual races, the participants in the Celebrity, Promotional and Sporting classes were already at the track honing their driving skills at the track and tuning their Vios race cars for optimum performance. The Autocross Challenge participants from various car clubs, social media influencers, and motoring media arrived early to practice and to get some seat time using the race-prepared Vios race cars. Yours truly was there to represent Power Wheels and Manila Standard.
During the first round of the Autocross Challenge held on April 28 at the open grounds of the SM Mall of Asia (MOA) in Pasay City, Troy Montero took the best time plum for the Celebrity class, Iñigo Anton set the best time for the Car Clubs, and Jose Luis Altoveros of Autoindustriya.com set the best time for the Media class. I couldn’t concentrate then due to a slipped disc but I still managed to qualify in ninth place among twenty participants, only to be knocked off during the Elimination Run. But now, with my back in good shape, I have no excuse not to do well at the second round of the Vios Autocross Challenge. Dare I say, “Challenge accepted?”
Faster Autocross Course
During the Drivers’ Briefing for the Autocross Challenge, JP Tuason advised us that the course they laid out at Clark is much faster and less technical than the one at MOA. He hinted that the course is longer and requires shifting between 1st and 2nd gears to finish the autocross in less than a minute. The course was a mirror track where both tracks (A and B) had a long straight after the start, a chicane, a 360° turn, followed by another long straight, a slalom and a short straight before the finish line of the first track, into which the driver races into the other track to do the same thing before finally finishing the full Autocross course.
Because of some miscommunication between the marshals, some of us weren’t able to practice in the morning, but we were able to drive twice in the afternoon. During my first practice run, I found the track straightforward, challenging and quick. My wife Shawie timed my second practice run when she rode shotgun and her video showed I finished the course between 56 and 57 seconds. Reviewing her video, I knew I can lower my time by making my drive smoother and more fluid.
Earning Valuable Points
Earning only a single point by placing 10th in the MOA race, I was determined to make a good show with my stint at the wheel in Clark. During the Qualifying Runs, I placed 6th among 23 media participants and made the Top 10 to advance to the Elimination Runs. I didn’t make it the Semi Finals where the top four drivers would battle it out for the Finals but at least, I earned some valuable points (and a little respect from the young ones), had a lot of fun, met new friends, and made great memories. And to top it all, Visor’s Manski Nascimento and Miggi Solidum, STV’s Matt Mallari, my wife Shawie and I had a great bulalo (beef stew with bone marrow) lunch during practice. I guess Miggi, Matt and I qualified because of the bulalo in our bellies except for Manski, who ordered something else.
With a time of 53.05 seconds, Jose Luis Altoveros again placed first in the Media class, earned another 20 points, and looks unbeatable as he goes into the next round with 40 points under his belt. Jeff Soberon of MP Turbo placed second (54.05) while Matt Mallari of Sunshine Television placed third (55.15). Among the influencers, our new friend Vince Vandorpe set a time of 54.49 seconds and bested Phytos Ramirez (56.83) and Reph Bangsil (57.06). In the Car Clubs class, defending champion Iñigo Anton set the fastest time of the day with 49.99 seconds and earned the Bridgestone Car Club Driver of the Day award.
Circuit Championship Races
In Race 1 of the Sporting Class, John Dizon prevailed over 2nd placer Gel Napat and 3rd placer Red Diwa. In Race 2, Eggy Ong crossed the finish line before Red Diwa and Lord Seno while in Race 3, Lord Seno lorded over John Dizon and Gel Napat. We were cheering for our friend, Marc Soong, who was racing for his “Make-A-Wish” advocacy. He climbed as high as second place only to fade to fourth in the final stages of Race 3. Team Awards for Leg 1 of the Toyota Racing Festival went to the Team Obengers.
In the first race of the Promotional Class, Francis Adriano bested 2nd placer Julian Tang and 3rd placer Elysse Menorca. Race 2 found Adriano back on top of the podium with Julian Neri in 2nd and Fabio Ide, who was “promoted” from the Celebrity class, in 3rd. The third race was basically musical chairs between winner Julian Tang, 2nd placer Elysse Menorca, and 3rd placer Francis Adriano. Meanwhile, Daniel Matsunaga and Troy Montero won big in the Celebrity class while Aubrey Miles and Gretchen Ho showed consistent performances.
The sponsors and partners of the Toyota Vios Racing Festival surprised everyone by giving special awards. TMP Vice President Elijah Marcial and First Vice President Cristina Arevalo were on stage to hand out the awards. 3M Crystalline automotive tints recognized Chie Filomena as the “Coolest Racer”, Aubrey Miles as the “Consistent Racer” and Troy Montero as the “Madiskarte Racer”. AVT in-car entertainment and connectivity picked Daniel Matsunaga as the “Celebrity Driver of the Day”, Gerald Anderson as the “Overall Best Male Celebrity Driver” and Gretchen Ho as the “Overall Best Female Celebrity Driver”. Denso spark plugs acknowledged the drivers who achieved the fastest laps in their respective classes – Troy Montero in the Celebrity class (2:29.06), Julian Tang in the Promotional class (2:28.44), and John Dizon in the Sporting class (2:26.96). Dizon also got the “Motul Slingshot Award” and was chosen “Brembo Driver of the Day” while Gerald Anderson was the “Brembo Fans’ Choice”.
Petron awarded Gretchen Ho with the “Clutch Award”, Fabio Ide with the “Xcitement Award”, and named Gerald Anderson as the “Smooth Driver”. Bridgestone tires chose Gretchen Ho as their “Racer of Choice”, husband-and-wife Troy Montero and Aubrey Miles as their “Celebrity Racers of the Day”, Iñigo Anton as their “Car Club Racer of the Day”, and yours truly as their “Media Racer of the Day”. At first, I thought I got the award because I was wearing my red Bridgestone bull cap all day, but Allan Santos of Bridgestone explained that I deserved the award for my commitment to race in the Vios Autocross Challenge regardless of previous health problems. Now, that caught me by surprise!
As mentioned at the start, if a car race is a show then the Toyota Vios Racing Festival 2019 is a great show because it showed its appreciation to its customers – the Toyota car club members and Vios owners who were given a chance to prove their mettle using their own personal cars, even beating seasoned drivers in race-prepped versions. And what can be better than that?
The Toyota Vios Racing Festival 2019 and 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; in partnership with Petron, the Philippines’ No. 1 fuel and oil company; 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 at the next races at the Clark International Speedway!