A 15-year old Gran Turismo gamer lorded over real racers, most of whom are more than twice his age, in the recently concluded Toyota Vios Cup. Luis Gono, the grid’s youngest competitor emerged as the first overall champion of the country’s most prestigious and highly publicized motorsports event.
In formal awarding ceremonies held on November 9 at the Gramercy Residences in Makati City, the valiant efforts of the young hot shoe from San Juan was recognized by Michinobu Sugata, president of Toyota Motors Philippines by awarding the young driver with a specially designed championship trophy and a key to a brand new Vios sedan. “I am very happy with the turnout of this year’s Vios Cup and to have a young driver like Luis, which best represents the future of motorsports to win this championship. It also reflects the durability and performance characteristics of the country’s best-selling car, the Toyota Vios,” Sugata said.
At 15, Gono is not even old enough to get a driving ‘Student Permit’ from the Land Transportation Office. Yet, he has won race after race in karting competitions as well as drift races.
Through the six rounds of the Vios Cup, Gono traded paint with his co-racers and worked his way up the points ladder. With seasoned veterans, showbiz celebrities and hardened media personalities racing alongside him, the third year high-school student from Xavier School banked on his karting experience and extensive driver training to clinch this year’s title.
“This season was definitely a huge learning experience for me. It is a good feeling to win the Vios Cup, which is probably the country’s biggest motoring event to date,” Gono said after the awarding ceremony.
When asked how felt after beating a field of drivers who are mostly double his age, Gono replied, “It feels special because winning the championship is a culmination of the time and effort my dad and I spent in practicing on weekends. Even on weekdays. My dad and I really sacrificed a lot for this event and I dedicate this win to my family, Cosco Oben, Jun Santos and Miguel Marius of Toyota North EDSA for believing in me, Mike Anton, Jody Coseteng and Edgen Dy-Liaco for training me and lastly to God for being there with me inside the cockpit,” Gono added.
His affection for racing was fueled by his love for playing Gran Turismo on Playstation as well as and racing remote controlled cars on weekends.
Prior to becoming the first Vios Cup champion, Gono was a champion karter. He started racing at the age of 13, with businessman Ramon Ang as his first true believer who gave him a competition-ready kart to win the 2012 second quarter season championship.
At the same time, Gono is also the country’s youngest drift racer with consistent top finishes. He also impressed the Drift King himself, Keichi Tsuchiya, with his smooth performance on track driving a custom built Nissan S13 Sylvia by Autoplus.
“For a person who has never driven on the street and does not even possess a valid driver’s license, my kid really did me proud today,” said businessman Carlos Gono, the proud father of the 15-year old champion racer.
According to the older Gono, he has a big surprise for Luis for winning the crown but revealed that he will have to wait until February of next year before he could get it.
Luis Gono, who celebrated his 16th birthday on November 15 said he is very excited that he can now apply for a ‘Student Permit.’ “My Dad has promised to get me a student license once I come of age. As of now, I get to drive around the streets during holidays, and Sundays only. The experience I gained from racing is a plus factor when driving in an urban setting. I am more defensive, I think,” Gono said.
When asked for his plans with the new Toyota Vios that he won, Gono said he has no plans with it, as of yet, because he still has his custom-built Toyota Vios as a practice car.
Gono later revealed that he will be competing in next year’s Toyota Vios Cup.