HOW TO BECOME A RACE DRIVER

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MIKE POTENCIANO

MIKE POTENCIANO

(Part 2)

After tackling the preliminaries

on “How to Become a Race Driver” last week, I hope that you had honestly assessed if you would like to become one. If you are ready to go to the next level and are as excited as I am, let’s proceed and take the plunge to motor sports together.

1. DECIDE AND START AT GRADE ONE – Once you have studied the different forms of motor sports, now is the time to humble yourself and start at the bottom. Some people would like to try and get to the top class right away, but this will not work. You will miss out on a lot of things and will not be able to appreciate how everything falls into place. You will incur a lot of expenses and even have bigger damage if you move up before you are ready. Making one’s skills ripe will take time and cannot be rushed. Take it from me as I had made that wrong decision when I started.


2. WHICH IS THE RIGHT WAY TO START? – When I started, I didn’t have the opportunities like what you have today. The new generation is very lucky because they can choose from the following options below to start their racing career. This is one of those times I hope I was born later to be able to enjoy these choices and shape my future. The best benefit of having raced before is my experience and hope others may follow suit. Here are my suggestions on how to start racing:

a) KARTING – I believe this is the most successful path to racing and is the best way to start with. This small kart might look easy to drive, but it actually gives great grip that assures fast cornering speeds and tremendous braking capability that will tire you right away if you are not fit enough. Karting will teach the driver the basics of what a good handling machine should have and it is able to monitor the driver’s progress against other competitors.

However, the high end, international standard classes have become so expensive that it is not workable for most racers. Fortunately, our MP Turbo team was appointed by the Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP) and Philippine International Karting Association to find a way to bring down the costs and teach new karters. We will be working on a new formula soon and hope to get the past karters back to race again.

b) AAP MOTORSPORT DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM – The AAP has been granted by the FIA (International Automobile Association), the world body in charge of motors ports like Formula One, World Rally Championship, among others, funding to develop racing in this country. This is quite an exciting time because this was never done before and this provides a means for new drivers to pursue their racing dreams. I will have a dedicated column on AAP’s Motor Sports Development Program (MSDP) along with our karting clinic soon. For now, please check out AAP’s website to check this spectacular program.

c) NISSAN GT ACADEMY – Virtual gaming is here to stay and there is a new breed of racers that grew up in this world. Again, our generation entirely missed out on this opportunity and is one of the new technologies that will help new racing drivers a lot. Nissan has partnered up with Sony Playstation in 2008 and have come up with a novel idea of finding race drivers that do virtual races.

Last year, Nissan Philippines Inc. (NPI) brought in the GT Academy to launch the new Asian Championship. Our own Filipino gamer and racer Joward Policarpio bested everyone including drivers from Japan, Thailand and other Asian countries. Luckily, NPI will again bring it back this year and will “democratize” motor sports, which was a term popularized by the company’s past president Toti Zara, who spearheaded it.

d) TRACKDAY – One of best ways to get track time is going to the race tracks on a weekday when it is open for practice. You might have to share it with others and pay a track fee, but at least you will have a lot of time on the track. Just try to go with some buddies or car club, and get a racer friend to help you with the basics. Also make sure you have a reliable and safe car, and bring along some spares like tires. It’s not good to have a flat tire and not able to finish the day and worst, can’t go home because of it.

e) SLALOMS AND AUTOCROSS – Another good way to get some racing seat time and experience the pressure of competing is to join the numerous race events where you can use your road car. Track days are good to get the feel and set up of your car. However, there is nothing that makes your heart beat faster and your hands sweaty than waiting for the countdown before your timed run. You should also be able to do your best time in a short lap, so it is all very exciting and tense.

The lessons to be learned are valuable and you will need them when you move higher the racing ladder. The National Slalom Series organized by Race Motorsports of Bing and Lito Dulce, and the Philippine Autocross Championships by Danny Santiago are some of the events that are available for newbies and veterans.

f) DRAG RACING – Even though Drag Racing is considered a sport for engine mechanics, a driver that is mechanically inclined will benefit a lot from it. Just to see how your engine is tuned and your reaction time against other drivers are good reasons to join this sport. I have done some drag racing before and it is really up there when it comes to the pressure right before you get the green light. Since I also advocate that drivers be technically knowledgeable to get the maximum out of their race car, drags will be a valuable addition to any driver’s program.

As you can see, there are numerous ways on how to start your racing career. At this point, you will have to decide which you would like to do. If budget is no problem, try to do it all and you will learn a lot. However, if money and time are tight, I would recommend karting, especially if you would like to progress into Formulas and/or Touring Cars. For would be engine tuners, do drag racing. Don’t forget to check out the AAP MSDP and Nissan GT Academy, too, as these can be your fast track into racing.

Since these are just the options you will be facing, you will still need a lot of guidance to help you find your way. I will expound on these guides in my future columns. Hope you will keep reading and join us in motor sports soon. Godspeed!

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