While the second staging of the Vios Cup by Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation (TMP) is a shot in the arm to revive local motorsports, what the sports need is more car brands getting into the picture.
So far the most visible attempt to revive saloon car racing in the country, the Vios Cup aims to develop new motorsports talent. TMP’s backing the series is even more grand compared to other one-make series staged in the past years.
“The biggest difference has been the participation of a lot of people. When you have grid that is 36 to 40 cars big, that is huge. Now they had to divide it [races]to a sporting class and promotional class,” said Lee Junia who once competed in the Corolla Cup series in the late 1990s and is now connected with a Toyota dealer.
The Corolla Cup series, which was staged at the Batangas Racing Circuit, had eight to 12 cars participating.
Junia said what distinguishes the Vios Cup from the other race series held in the Philippines is the massive backing of TMP.
“I think Toyota has upped the ante when staging an event like this because they made it a spectacle. It’s not anymore an ordinary race weekend,” said Junia, noting the Vios Cup races has other activities like concerts and features celebrities taking part in the races.
For top Filipino racecar drivers Mike Potenciano and Georges Ramirez, the next logical step after establishing a one-make race series like the Vios Cup is to hold race series involving other car brands.
“Normally, it’s either [the holding of]several kinds of a one-make races. But the one that is most normal is the holding of one race series that has multiple manufacturers [participating],” Ramirez said.
Potenciano, who has competed in open-wheel races in Asia, agrees.
“Basically this [Vios Cup] is your grassroots development. The next step up is the winners will proceed to multi-brand racing or touring car racing. And then after that, we hope to see them battling it out in international competitions,” he said.
As to how willing are the other brands in holding their own one-make series or participating in a multi-brand race remains to be seen.
But with the Philippine car market growing, participation in motorsports by other car firms can follow.
“Because of the growth of the automotive industry where Toyota is selling 100,000 [units]and the industry selling close to 300,000, it’s really contributing to more interest into motorsports,” Junia said.
MORE INVOLVEMENT NEEDED
Speaking from his experience in promoting the races at Subic along with this father, the late Pocholo Ramirez, Georges said the corporate world, particularly those not involved in the car industry, has yet to see the value of motorsports for advertising and promotion.
“The corporate world in the Philippines has no awareness of the potential of marketing through motorsports,” he said.
“You could drive down EDSA or the highways and never see a single billboard that had a racecar on it to market their products,” Ramirez added.
Nonetheless, Ramirez believes a one-make race series like the Vios Cup is one good venue to develop new talents.
“Definitely, the best program for developing racecar drivers is a one-make series because it evens out the playing field. It’s about the driver, it’s the skills that gets developed,” he added.
Motorsports is also where Filipinos can excel based on the number of drivers who can even compete internationally at this point.
According to Ramirez, his father succeeded in his advocacy to develop a pool of very good drivers by hosting the races at Subic from 1993.
“At one point, I could say we had the most number of good race drivers out of the Philippines in spite of having no circuit racing for 17 years [prior to the staging of races in Subic in 1993],” he said, adding he can name 15 to 16 good Filipino racecar drivers who have excellent skills, which of course includes him.
On the other hand, some Asian countries except Japan that have been hosting motorsports events have up to eight good racecar drivers.
With the Vios Cup, the number of Filipino racecar driver who can compete with the best of Asia and even the world can increase.
“Basically this [Vios Cup] is a very good effort [because]the number one 1 car firm is backing it. We don’t see this often and it’s a good thing Toyota took the lead,” Potenciano said.