Every time I see rallies on TV or online, I reminisce on those days when it was the No. 1 form of motor sports in the Philippines back in the 1980s. Now, rallying is gone and only a few of us remaining rally drivers have a fading memory of it.
We, however, will not let rally die and have made a strong commitment to revive it again. Before we reveal how we will revive it, please take your time to read why rallying is one sport worth saving.
In the early 1900s, rallying was all about road cars going around country roads and doing an “On-Time, All-The-Time” format. Soon, the drivers wanted more action and speed, so the organizers started to raise the average speeds and therefore, this shortened the time to get to the next checkpoint. This made it exciting but then the risks were higher especially for unknowing road users.
The organizers then decided to spin off the speed rallies and made it an event of their own. The race against time format was used in closed, public roads and was called Special Stage (SS). The commute to the different SS was called the Transport Stage (TS) and had a lower average speed that conformed to the local road regulations since it was open to the public.
The car that had the lowest accumulated time of all SS, with no penalties incurred during the TS, was declared the winner. This format proved to be very popular and is still used up to now. With rallies being a test of drivers in demanding conditions like snow, wet, dry and safari-type terrain, the best drivers came from the European continent, especially the ones that came from the snowy Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Norway.
Long distance rallies were the most popular ones with the Paris to Peking rally, Silk Road Rally and the London to Sydney Rally. Soon, the FIA (International Automobile Federation) came in and organized the World Rally Championship in the 1970s to make the event more compact, which made it easier for the participants to join and the spectators to follow.
LOCAL RALLYING BIRTH
Rallying also became popular here through the introduction of the On-Time, All-The-Time format in the 1970s. Since the road book was made with Tulip designs, the local events were renamed the Sampaguita Rallies, which come from our own national Jasmine flower. The cars were all road-going versions and were then transformed into rally machines when the hardcore rally events came.
The most popular long distance event was the1964 Philippine Shell Rally that traversed the whole country. This was won by Golden Wheel Motorsports Hall of Fame Awardee Paco Ventura. With the Cam Wreckers group leading the way, rallying gained a great foothold in the hearts of Filipinos.
Soon, the rallies shifted to speed rallies and international teams came to do battle with the locals. The Asean Rally was the best of them and saw the best of the foreign drivers come over like Lars Carlsson of Sweden, Colin Bond of England and many more. Race and rally legends Pocholo Ramirez, Dante Silverio and Arthur Tuason were the ones raising the Philippine flag during these events.
MOTOR SPORTS CRISIS
When the whole world suffered a fuel supply crisis in 1979, motor sports was the first to be put on hold. Fuel was being rationed and worst, the cost of each liter went up astronomically!
Another problem was that during the same year, there was a huge racing incident that involved the death of spectators. This halted racing events until a proper and safe track for spectators could be established.
All forms of racing had to shift to alternative fuel including alcohol or a mixture called alcogas. There was not enough information about this fuel, even though it was already a good fuel source for Brazil’s transport industry. The two-stroke engines of karting were the easiest ones to be converted and slowly motor sports started to come back.
With racing in hibernation, it was the Auto Rally Club of the Philippines that lead the way for rallying’s revival. Soon, the cars were powered by alcogas and the locals started to rally in earnest. International rallies were brought back in the 1980s with the International Mabuhay Rally and our drivers also went out to score numerous wins in their classes.
We were fortunate that rally driver and navigator Martin Galan has come up with a movie called “Racing With Legends,” and has traced the history of local motor sports in that movie. The FIA-designated arm in the country, the Automobile Association Of The Philippines, has also come up with a coffee table book on Philippine motor sports’ history called “Fast Lane.”
We highly recommend that you get copies of the book and movie, and see for yourself the root cause why rallying should be revived. Next week, we tackle rallying’s exciting nature and how we intend to revive it. Godspeed!