With all the government problems that we are facing this time-EJKs, drugs, corruption and bleak business outlook, it is very uplifting to have our Filipino drivers bring back honor in the international motor sports arena. After our bad showing in the recent South East Asian Games, we really needed these wins to bring smiles and pride to our countrymen.
One of our fresh racing victories happened in Incheon, Korea during the 2nd leg of the Asian Gymkhana Championship last August 20. 2017. Let’s trace the great impact of this win to our aspiring racers and our morale today.
Last year, our best team was sent to the first ever FIA Asian Auto Gymkhana Championship to Taichung, Taiwan last September 25-26, 2017. The RP team was composed of multi-time National Slalom and Karting Champion Milo Rivera with our best MP Turbo protégé, multi-discipline champion ever Carlos Anton. They won against a powerhouse contingent, including Japan’s 15-time Gymkhana Champion Tetsuya Yamano, in a single, exciting event that went down the wire (please search for it here in my Manila Times’ column).
With great enthusiasm from the various regional motor sports authorities, the 2017 AG became a 4 round series and had the first 2 rounds in Indonesia and Korea. The next 2 will be held in Taiwan and Thailand. A 5th round is reserved for the Philippines and according to Milo, the FIA designated national sporting authority, the Automobile Association of the Philippines, is working hard to make it happen.
The Rivera/Anton duo missed the 1st round in Indonesia last July 22-23, 2017, as Milo had to prioritize school over the race and Anton gave way to the upcoming slalom champions, Jevoy Moreno and Dion Ortiz. Unfortunately, our new Gymkhana drivers had problems adapting to the unique rules of AG where no practice were allowed and only right hand drive cars were used. They fought gallantly but were eliminated after reaching the top 16 knockout round. The Indonesians took the top podium places with James Sanger topping it.
The current Asian Gymkhana champions then made sure early on that they would clear their schedules and represent the country in Korea. They prepared well by joining the National Slalom races of Bing and Lito Dulce even though they were in different teams. Our MP Turbo team also put up the Race of Champions using the AG format in last month’s History Convention where Milo was able to practice on.
The cars to be used in Korea were the John Cooper Works Mini 2 door hardtop, which boosted the engine power to 228 hp from 200hp. The cars were also left hand drive and made it easier for our duo to drive. There were 2 mirror tracks that had varying grip levels especially when it rained on the 2nd day. This posed a lot of problems as will be explained later on.
The Filipino duo came to the event as marked men having won last year’s title. They were the top seeds since the Japanese team was not there having a conflict with their own national race. There were also the best 30 drivers from Asia and that made it harder including the 1sr round champion Sanger. Milo even shared that he spent some sleepless nights especially before the first day of competition!
With the first day of individual qualifying, the best Indonesian and Taiwanese drivers kept our Filipino drivers busy and honest. Milo had to work extra hard to take first place overall with the best time in his first run. However, he can only take 5th in the next run but came back 2nd in the last one for a combined time of 2:43.68.
Indonesia’s Sanger had a bad initial run but came back strong in the last 2 to take 2nd overall with 2:44.14. Carlos came in 3rd with a time of 2: 2:45.58 and had very good initial 2 runs then fell back in the last run. The superb 1-3 result made our Philippine team the top seed after the first day and this eased off some pressure for our drivers as they now have trophies to bring home!
Not yet over
The field came back on a wet track in the BMW Driving Center in Incheon. This added more problems as one of the tracks was more slippery than the other especially when wet. Anyone using it always complained that it was not the same.
The top 32 drivers were now going on their individual knockout rounds and most of the drivers thought it would be a fight between the Filipinos and Indonesians. However, the surprise of the day came when the local Koreans, who didn’t figure much in the first day, dispatched Sanger and Tseng in the round of 16. Milo had to do best of 3 runs against 3 Koreans to finally get the top spot in the Individual Knockout competition against Yong Lee. If you haven’t experienced this format, it is really nerve-wracking and not for the faint-hearted!
Icing on the cake
The final race was for the coveted Team Award, which the drivers are grouped according to their nationalities. With the Filipinos having no.1 seeding, they had the choice of track and they used it to their advantage. The hardest race was against the Koreans again when Carlos won on the good track but Milo lost on the bad one. The final run came down to Carlos winning it and that he did by more than a second!
In the end, both Carlos and Milo were all happy to hear the Philippine National Anthem played again when they won all three races. This is definitely one of those moments that will be their most treasured moments in their racing careers!
Let’s all support our drivers and we will be organizing our Race of Champions with the AG format to help future drivers to represent the country. Next week, we will have other champions that have made us proud and Godspeed to all!