Have you ever dreamt of something that you would like to do and finally get to do it? What if that vision suddenly came back and you get to do it all over again? That dream would be so huge that you would never forget it forever!
I was very fortunate to have that mind-blowing experience when I attended the Michelin Pilot Sport Experience at Sepang, Malaysia recently. We were the 4-man Philippine Media Team, namely Ronald De Los Reyes, Christopher Kho, Randy Peregrino and I, which would represent the country in the annual multi-discipline driving event.
Just getting chosen to be one of team members was a big achievement as a lot of people applied. We had to send our stories of why we should be chosen and there were a lot of entries. There was also the Car Club Enthusiasts’ group that was separated from the media peeps and they went ahead of our batch.
Before I give out more information that would spoil the climax, let’s start with the history of the Michelin Experience and see why lightning can strike twice.
History and event brief
The very exciting Michelin event started in 2006 and was all about showcasing the Michelin line up of tires through a premium driving experience. What was very commendable was how Michelin tires evolved by being involved in Motorsports since the 1890’s as a bicycle tire up to the present, highly specialized disciplines of racing.
They have competed in the hardest races in the world like the past Formula One races, 24 Hours of Le Mans, World Rally Championships, World Endurance Championship, Moto GP and Motocross GP. Michelin is also involved in various regional single seater formulas and touring car championships like the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia, GT Asia and Australian V8 Bathurst 12 Hour Race. Michelin is also the official tire of the new FIA Formula E for electric powered formulas running around the world.
All the participants got to drive different types of cars that were all equipped with the proper Michelin tires. There were 4 different stations that everyone will go through. The Rally Station had a new, 125 bhp Citroen DS3 R1 Rally Car with Michelin Rally Tires. The Touring Station had a Michelin Slick Tire on the new Renault Clio IV Race Car with 220hp, paddle shifter 5 speed box and a purpose built body that is stripped of any luxurious items.
The Street Station had an Audi A6 Quattro that had the new Michelin Pilot Sport 4 Tires which was not yet launched in the market. The final Station was for the Formula 4, which had a Renault 4 cylinder, 160 hp, engine in a paddle shifted 6-speed gearbox and a 470 kg carbon fiber chassis.
There was also a Tire Station, which had Michelin’s Tire Specialist explain all about the new Pilot Sport 4 tire and how it was developed for the latest high performance and super cars in the market. This was very refreshing if you are a technical person and would like to know what makes a Michelin tire different from all the others.
We were quite lucky that time because our overall driving instructor turned out to be Earl Bamber, who was part of the Porsche Team that won the 2015 Le Mans! A true Champion in our midst and I have to admit I was a little starstruck!
I arrived quite late in Malaysia after a hosting gig that I did for Honda Motorcycles in BGC the day before. That gave me only 3 hours rest in Sama Sama Hotel before I had to wake up and take my breakfast with the rest of the 20+ members from Australia, Vietnam and other countries. What was very noticeable was the lightning and thunderstorm happening outside my room’s window and I knew that it would be a very wet day!
We all boarded a bus to the Sepang F1 Track and took only 25 minutes to get there. The rains were still pouring when we got off the bus and we were greeted by the whole Michelin crew along with their mechanics and PR people. We felt at home right away and excited for the driving experience to come. After a short briefing, we now went to fit our helmets, suits, shoes and gloves, all decked out in Michelin colors.
The final preparation was a medical station to check for our blood pressure. Unluckily, I had always had a hypertensive condition since I was in my teens. This was aggravated when I had a late night arrival and lack of sleep. I failed 2x and after resting for a long while, I was permitted to run when my BP came down to 135/85. Sigh! That was so stressful as they were really strict with it.