My way

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MIKE POTENCIANO

MIKE POTENCIANO

Frank Sinatra’s theme song, “My Way”, has a Wikipedia entry about its phenomenon of killings here in the Philippines caused by off-key renditions by karaoke bar singers. Well, I don’t plan to be included in the statistics as I was way down the line when God blessed others with the gift of singing and angelic voices.

My way is all about how I started in racing and is a good follow up on my two-part series “How To Become A Race Driver.” So here’s my first hand story of how I started and I hope you pick up valuable lessons.

Growing up
My brothers and I were all interested in sports when we were growing up, especially with anything that had balls and wheels. Having the headquarters of the family transport company, BLTBCo, in San Pablo City, Laguna, we were blessed with having many people help us build our projects like three-wheeled sleds and push karts. San Pablo was also our big playground where we biked around the city with childhood friends and explored the beauty of its seven lakes, among others.

Being with friends and playmates helped us build great human relations skills that were needed to be a good manager and leader. These experiences are now seldom seen with the advent of computers, cell phones and other new technologies that prevent children from interacting with each other face-to-face. Even the well-loved games like “patintero” and “tumbang preso” are not played as often as we did before. As parents, we should try and encourage our kids to interact without electronic gadgets and cultivate their emotional quotient.


Parents’ condition
We were lucky to have very supportive parents that gave us the tools to pursue our passion in sports. Having been born the third boy, I grew up seeing my brothers enjoy their toys, bikes, motorbikes and cars with their friends. I was very happy to get their hand-me-downs and was also busy tinkering on how to make them better.

Our parents, though, never permitted us to race in motocross when we were teenagers. We had to finish college and get our degree, especially for me and my younger brother Snooky. I guess this taught me the value of education and also prevented me from getting broken bones along the way. This also prevented the onset of getting burned out and that happens to a lot of young racers these days.

Rallying blindly
After getting my BS Biology degree from UP Diliman, Quezon City (Yup, almost became a doctor!), I decided to join our Maya Industries-sponsored Rally of Champions in 1983. My brother Binky was in a Toyota Corolla and I had a Mitsubishi Lancer two-door L-Type.

With no racing or mechanical background, I relied on my own research and the BLTB mechanics to make a very complicated and highly technical turbocharged, blow-through 1.6-liter rally car. All the participants were supposed to have rallied on Alcogas, which was the only fuel allowed after the world fuel crisis stopped all forms of racing in the Philippines in 1979. Sad to say, we were the only ones that complied and our Lancer conked out early on when the fuel pumps packed up because it wasn’t made for alcohol use.

We managed to get the car to run the next day and we did the Sampaloc Lake stage, even though it was only for exhibition. This single run made all the difference and we knew we wanted to go rallying! We relished the challenge and I believed this was the start of our never-say-die attitude in racing.

Birth of MP Turbo
We got another valuable lesson after the rally — we needed a good auto race/rally shop to prepare our cars. Our bus mechanics needed much training and even the logistical support of machining parts has to be top level. Because of this, I decided to go back to school and study Industrial Management Engineering, minor in Mechanical Engineering in De La Salle University, Manila.

We put up MP Turbo Race/Rally Shop inside BLTBCo and started to get tips from other sources, like foreign shops and drivers who raced with us. We learned that we needed good mechanics and young helpers to support the experienced crew. We also couldn’t re-invent the wheel, as the saying goes, which meant that we should try to make the cars better but not overdo it to a point it becomes fragile and unreliable.

Back to Grade One
Our first rally’s Did Not Finish (DNF) status was replayed many times in the next rallies. We either had mechanical problems or crashes because of the nut behind the wheel! I knew that I had to improve my driving skills and try to be as competitive as the other drivers. After two years, I decided to take my team-mates’ advise and formed a team to go karting.

Karting was struggling after the previous generation of karters had either moved on or simply stopped when hard times came after Ninoy Aquino’s assassination in 1983. With our BLTBCo-MP Turbo Team joining in 1985, we were able to put a lot of attention with the veterans of the sport coming back for more exciting action.

Our team was composed of my mentors in karting, namely expert karters Tammy Campos, Robbie Luna and Jody Coseteng. We also conducted clinics and sponsored new drivers to build up the field. These activities helped spread the word that karting was the best way to start racing.

The expert division was handily won by Luna and also the team championship for BLTBCo. However, local politics and the failure of policing the kart tires paved the way for me to lose the novice category by only one point. This again taught us a valuable lesson — always check the rules, organizers and the scrutineering procedures if they are all up to par. Sad to say, not all events are equal and it’s so disheartening to lose to some kart/car that is not in the same specification as yours.

Next week, I will continue with my way of racing and hope you all stay tuned. Godspeed to all!

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