With the Philippines now being touted as Southeast Asia’s next tiger economy and the car industry growing like never before, it’s high time for motor sports to take center stage once again. Does this mean that our prayers have been answered this early?
Partly yes, which gives us good reason to remain hopeful and pious. We are almost there and there’s no better and more exciting time to be in. Much has been accomplished in certain motor sports but there is still a lot of hard work to be done in some racing disciplines.
We have devoted our first two columns to tracing recent Philippine motor sports history. Let us now look at the current state of local motor sports to see which disciplines are doing well and those in need of help.
A fortnight ago, there were three racing events that shared the limelight. The second leg of the Philippine North Drag Races and the third round of the Touge Battle were ran alternately on the same date at the Clark International Speedway. Racing action shifted south to the Carmona Race Track in Cavite the following day with the opening round of the Petron Tri Activ Super Kart Series.
Drag racing is very much alive and doing very well according to long-time organizer and famous drag race mechanic, Fil Gulfin. When this much-loved sport came back in 2004 at the Batangas Racing Circuit, it only had 30 participants. When Clark opened in 2008, it had around 70 entries. Today, the number has grown to 120 for the Batangas Racing Circuit and 140 for Clark, making drag racing the fastest growing four-wheel racing discipline.
Togue Battle is one of the newest races that cater to fresh drivers who are just getting into the sport. They have different classes based on the engine sizes where competitors are made to race against each other in their class with a pre-determined gap, usually between three to four seconds. The driver that can close or widen the gap ends up as the winner, i.e. if the lead driver increases his lead gap then he is faster so he wins the heat.
This very enthusiastic group led by EZ Ligaya commands a growing following with some 30 to 60 entries in their recent events. The best thing about the group is their advocacy to keep the racing on the racetrack and off the streets. They have given drivers with a penchant for speed an alternative medium for competition and made it easier for them to channel their enthusiasm in the proper venue. Eventually, this discipline is expected to again open a new door that will bring in future racing champions.
Unfortunately, karting, without doubt one of the most viable springboards for budding race drivers, is now having a hard time getting the numbers. The first round in Carmona was very low keyed compared to the two other disciplines I just mentioned.
The Cadet class for drivers 12 years and younger is considered to be one of the most important classes in motor sports. History shows that a big number of racing champions, not only here but the world over, were products of the Cadet class in karting. In the past, the local Cadet class always had a healthy grid that promised a healthy crop of future champions.
This time though, the Cadet class only had eight racers! The field was the combined drivers of the Novice and Expert Cadet classes. The number presented a virtual image of a healthy field but in reality the numbers were lacking. This is not good for motor sports!
The biggest problem with karting is the “cost of racing” which can run into the hundreds of thousands of pesos. The price is simply too costly and unaffordable for most middle-class families. For its part, the Kilton Group, the organizers of the local kart races had to resort to sponsoring some of the most promising drivers to fill up the grid and make the numbers. They also introduced a new class, called the IAME X30, for top-level racers to help lower the cost and hopefully, bring back the glory days.
Another problem is that there is a vacuum in training new Cadet Karters today. Two years ago, this was handled by the TRS group of JP Tuason. However, they now have their hands full with a lot of events on their plate like the Toyota Vios Cup that in a way deferred their programs for the next generation of racers. Fortunately, our MP Turbo group and Johnny Tan’s Kilton Group have formed an alliance that seeks to provide a solution to that problem.
We will start our own Karting Champions of the Future driving clinic this summer and try to get our Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile of FIA designate mother association, the Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP) to support. AAP has been designated by FIA to help promote motor sports in the country and Cadet Karting is just one of them. We will provide young karters with the proper training in the world-class racetracks we now have here in the country.
There are racing forms that are doing equally well such as slaloms, autocross, time attack, etc. where ordinary street cars are the competition equipment. All of them play a vital role in honing the skills of the drivers and getting them to race on the track and off the streets. Each of them can contribute to having safer roads, better-skilled drivers and even to producing our first Formula One or World Rally Championship champion in the future!
Let us keep on praying and continue to throw our support to motor sports where the Filipino can truly shine and excel. In time, our prayers will be answered and only then will we be able to sit back and quietly relish the fact that we played our part well in bringing glory back to Philippine motor sports. Godspeed!