The last weekend of August 2019 proved to be my most exciting weekend yet. On the early morning of Friday the 30th, my wife Shawie and I pointed our borrowed TRD-accessorized 2019 Toyota Hilux Conquest pickup truck north to the Clark International Speedway (CIS) in Pampanga for the 3rd leg of the 2019 Vios Racing Festival, that covers the 2nd leg of the Circuit Championship and the 3rd leg of the Vios Autocross Challenge, where I was one of the participating media racers. After the requisite registration and drivers’ briefing, I found that there were twenty-five participants from the media, including four social media personalities, and that we were going to share the track time with an almost equal number of racers from the various Vios car clubs.
During my track familiarization run, Shawie rode with me to record the autocross track on her mobile phone and the video showed a 01:03.00 run, which was actually slow. On my second practice run, Enzo delos Reyes, the handsome son of my compare, Manny delos Reyes, the motoring editor of The Philippine STAR and Business World, and publisher of 2.0 Magazine, rode with me and the video he captured on his phone showed a time of 00:56.00, which meant that I was able to shave off seven seconds off my lap time. On my third turn at the track, which was my official timed practice run, I shaved off another few seconds and clocked the best time of 00:50.38 among the media racers. I felt confident that I got a good grasp of the track layout.
Fun Times Despite the Weather
Sporadic rains fell on August 31st Saturday Race Day, which made racing more exciting, challenging and action-packed. During the opening festivities, Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) President Satoru Suzuki expressed his deepest appreciation to the customers and fans who have dedicated time and effort to witness the Toyota Vios motorsports event despite the increment weather. Racers, crew and spectators alike felt that it was worth the effort since everybody were again treated to the viewing of the all-new 2020 Toyota Supra before the races officially started. Race 4 of the Circuit Championship was held on Friday afternoon while Races 5 and 6 were held Saturday.
For the Qualifying Run of the Vios Autocross Challenge, only ten of the twenty-five media racers will qualify for the semi-final round. My first run became a bit dramatic when my Vios race car skidded into the final gate and ran over a pylon, which resulted in a DNF (Did Not Finish). I was red-flagged on my second run because the front right tire of my Vios was flat. The race officials gave me another run, where I clocked 00:50.92, which landed me in 6th place that qualified me for the semi-final round. I had a good feeling that this was going to be a good race weekend.
Seeing that my official practice and qualifying times were consistent with a variance of around only half a second (00:50.38 and 00:50.92), I only needed to repeat my run to enter the final round, where only four of the 10 semi-finalists will be racing. I clocked a slower time of 00:51.71, which I wanted to attribute to the wetter track but couldn’t because that would be simply a lame excuse. The younger media racers dug deep into their competition driving skills and even improved their times despite the slipperier conditions. Chewy Buhion of Manila Times improved his time from 00:51.18 to 00:50.90 to land the fourth and final spot while points leader Jose Luis Altoveros of Autoindustriya.com showed his consistency by clocking 00:47.58 from his qualifying time of 00:47.35. These kids are really good!
In the final autocross race, Altoveros captured the Media category crown for the third time this season with a time of 00:50.23 over second-placer Earl Davidson Lee of Auto Deal (00:50.58) and third-place winner Buhion (00:51.94). Jules Aquino lorded over the Social Media Personalities with a time of 00:50.94 over Reph Bangsil (00:51.45) and Jun Sunga (00:52.59) while 14-year-old racing sensation Iñigo Anton maintained his points leadership in Car Clubs category with a time of 00:47.07, winning over Sean Kody Ng (00:49.27) and Mickie Carbonell (00:51.94).
Heart-stopping Circuit Races
Actor Troy Montero claimed two first place victories at the Circuit Championship Celebrity Class, winning Legs 4 and 5. Unfortunately, Troy’s race car crashed into the Vios of Sporting Class racer John Dizon right after crossing the finish line in Race 5, which sidelined Montero out of Race 6 that was won by Daniel Matsunaga. Montero escaped serious injuries in spite of the forces of the impact. “Despite the outside damage from the crash, the driver’s area was totally untouched. We also have a roll cage, race suit, and helmet, and most especially the HANS (head and neck safety) device to keep us safe”, he explained on his Instagram account.
Because of the wet track conditions, Celebrity Class racer Chie Filomeno also slid off-track due to aquaplaning, preventing her from finishing Race 6. Montero and Filomeno were quickly brought to the hospital for checkups and were cleared to be back at the venue in time for the awarding ceremonies. “No matter what happens, I still find myself coming back to this sport. The adrenaline rush it gives me is out of this world”, said Filomeno in an Instagram post she wrote after the race. Meanwhile in the Sporting Class, Red Diwa of JBT Racing-Toyota Isabela won Race 4 and Eggy Ong of JBT Racing-Toyota San Fernando won both Races 5 and 6. In the Promotional Class, Julian Tang of Toyota Otis-Obengers won Race 4 while female racer Elysse Menorca of Toyota North EDSA-Obengers won Races 5 and 6.
Awarding Ceremony Surprises
Saturday Race Day evening was lit up with the fun awarding ceremonies where TMP recognized the winners of the races, where sponsors handed out special awards to deserving participants, and where reveling racers drenched the winners with beer as they made their way to the podium. I was pleasantly surprised to receive my second special award this season as Bridgestone Tires’ “Media Racer of the Day”, which prompted my wife Shawie to jeer, “What did my husband do to deserve that?” Bridgestone Philippines’ Marketing Head Allan Santos explained that they recognized my resiliency as a racer and for pitting my skills against media racers more than half my age while keeping within fractions of a second with their lap times. “You’re like Bridgestone tires that remains consistent with its performance despite the mileage. (Hmm…) I also realized that I’m now racing with the sons of sportsmen I used to race with before: Enzo delos Reyes and Iñigo Anton, who are the respective sons of Manny delos Reyes and Carlos Anton, who I used to compete with in slalom races in the early ‘90s. Man, I suddenly feel old – a “tito” racer…
But overall, it was an amazing race weekend full of fun, heart-stopping moments, and great camaraderie. I can’t wait until the next and final leg of the 2019 Vios Racing Festival that is scheduled on the 9th of November. The Vios Racing Festival is supported by Toyota Motor Philippines’ partners Toyota Racing School, Toyota Racing Development (TRD) and Toyota Gazoo Racing, as well as sponsors Bridgestone tires, Petron fuel, Motul lubricants, Rota wheels, Brembo brakes, Denso sparkplugs, AVT in-car entertainment, 3M Crystalline automotive tint, OMP racing equipment and apparel, and Tuason Racing.