Fil-Ams racing in the US

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MIKE POTENCIANO

For those motor sports fans that missed our Turbo Times column for almost five months, I am back!

The dynamic duo of motoring, Lindy Pellicer and I, were in the United States for four months and were based in San Jose, California. We had a very busy time there and luckily; we were able to squeeze in some motor sports activities especially in the field of karting.

We also met a lot of Fil-Ams that were involved in karting and the next generation of racers that we helped along the way. Here are some of our special memories of those wonderful times:

Glorious past
Every time that I get to any track in the US, I always remember our best IndyCar driver, Jovy Marcelo. Jovy was a crowd favorite after winning straight two championships in the Toyota Formula Atlantic series. His first was as a Rookie Champion in 1990, then he took the Overall Formula Atlantic Championship over highly touted Jimmy Vasser of the US in 1991, by only four points at the end!


I was fortunate to have witnessed firsthand those two races in Laguna Seca. It was a very proud moment for all Filipinos to see the Philippine Flag on the top podium during the awarding ceremonies. The whole formula paddock was very happy for this forever smiling Filipino racer as he deserved the championship and was well loved even by his competitors.

The next year or in May 15, 1992, Jovy was killed in a practice session for the Indianapolis 500. The track was newly paved then and a lot of drivers had accidents before and during the event. It was a tragic end to a very promising career.

It is fortunate that when you Google Jovy, he is still remembered by many during his 25th death anniversary this year. I hope that I will still see the day when another Filipino will rise to the top of the podium of IndyCar.

Present warriors
One of the Fil-Am hopefuls that we have is Michele Bumgarner who has been competing in Formula Mazda since last year. Michele started with us in our MP Turbo National Kart Series under the tutelage of her father and great sportsman Lee. With her younger brother Mark, the two toddlers needed special baby karts to be reach the pedals.

Michele has racked up an impressive racing CV including Red Bull Star Search wins and was on her way to European Formula racing when financial problems stopped her ambitions. She is now based in the US and having good seat times in Formula Mazda hoping to finally get a break and land a good race deal.

We also met up with our Philippine Touring Car Champion Don Pastor who is now based in the US with his ever-growing family in tow. He is breaking into touring cars and time attack races, and is making a name in those very competitive forms of racing. We hope to bring you more in depth reports on Michele and Don soon in this column as we try to chart their progress for racing glory.

Future champions
When we were in the US, we were able to see that the future of racing Fil-Ams is very much alive and raring to go.

Last year’s winner in the Sanzaru Karting Championship in Sonoma Raceway, Sears Point, California, was Christian “Ianne” Legaspi in the Micro Max class. This class for 8-12 year old drivers showed how great Ianne was by taking the highly competitive class in dominant fashion. This year, Ianne shifted to a higher class and is finding it hard but he is a good boy and has his father, Wesley, and uncle, Warren, to provide much moral and logistical support. I was able to give some driving tips to Ianne during the first round of the season and was happy he appreciated them.

We were also blessed to be part of the Cambrian Karting Team of Donald Durbin Sr. and his son Donald Jr. Based in Campbell, California, we managed to help them in mechanical and driver support for future champions in the team. The race that the team concentrated on was the Sanzaru Games Karting Championship in Sonoma.

With the help of Fil-Am Ray Bustamante, Cambrian’s US crew Andrew Cyrus and expert karter Nic Le Duc, we were able to transform our five kids into championship winning racers. They are Ayrton Tyler, Ryan Persing, Dante Barrionuevo, Wyeth Hair and Harrison Marsh. These young kids have the heart and skills to become future champions soon. Just to prove our case, in the 2nd round last April 23, the Top 3 were Persing, Tyler and Barrionuevo for our team!

Before I wrap up, special mention goes to Bianca Bustamante, who is the daughter of Ray and Jhen. She might not be in the US, but she has shown great results in the Asian Region for the past two years and I will do a feature on her soon. Don Pastor’s son, Dino, is also now trying out the Micro Max class and sadly, we just left when he started.

Those are just some of our very memorable and great experiences in racing we had while in the US. I hope to bring what we learned there to our local karters here and revive karting back to its glory days. Godspeed to all and we are happy to be back!

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