After last week’s short history of how the golden age of motor sports was revived in the early 1990s, I couldn’t leave out the big championships that pushed this greatest sport into the limelight.
First up is the great push by Toyota Motors Philippines Corporation with their Toyota Corolla Cup and Formula Toyota in the mid 1990s. These two grand events had such a big following that paved the way for the new crop of champions who later became marquee names in the sport. The Toyota Corolla Cup was supported by dealers who coveted the bragging rights that came with every victory delivered by their drivers in the series. The 30-plus Corolla Cup cars had rated drivers contesting the National Production Championship and novice drivers contesting the Novice Class title.
The Formula Toyota (FT) series became the first local formula series in the revival era to groom experienced drivers in open-wheel racing again. The last time formula cars were ran was back in the 1970s when there weren’t many cars yet. The FT series was intended to serve as a springboard that will send promising karters straight to open-wheel Formula racing in continental championships abroad. Considering the pricey capital outlay for the racing machines, sponsors opted to appoint veteran racers into the cockpits of the Formula cars with the likes of Jojo Silverio, Pepon Marave, Roland Hermoso and Carlos Anton who all made good during those years.
This premiere Formula series paved the way for the very ambitious and hugely-funded Asian Formula 3 (AF3) Championship that ran its inaugural race in 2001. The cars used were older Formula 3s from the European and Japan series to cut down on running costs. The series attracted foreign interests and we were fortunate to participate in a few races in 2003. We won the first two races in Subic in the Promotional Class for older cars while our team-mate Marave went all the way to clinch the overall AF3 crown in the newer model F3s.
The sport of karting was also one of the motor sports disciplines that continued to grow since its revival in the late 1980s. We started the Philippine International Karting Association (PIKA) that helped karting rise from the ashes. Johnny Tan, Ed Peña, Marjo Olondriz, Willy Ortiz, Gabby Intengan and I all partnered after the very popular Cam Wreckers Association stopped organizing races when the JRC Ramrod Kartway (now Eastwood) in Libis, Quezon City shut down after the People Power revolution in 1986.
We competed in races we organized and even supported teams where upcoming drivers were given the chance to show their skills. We ran in non-permanent tracks like commercial establishments, CCP complex and even organized an international event in Luneta, Manila. We also went around the major cities like Cebu, Davao, Batangas, Bacolod and Baguio. This helped spread the popularity of karting and made it one of the more well-attended races in terms of drivers and fans.
We had two kart series then called the Super and National Kart Series that our MP Turbo Team organized. This continued the momentum we generated in the early 1990s with PIKA and even had a regular Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) sports award annually. Caltex supported our National Kart Series from 1994-1996 with Motolite taking it in 1997.
The best year for me was in 1992 when I took the championships in both National and Super Series and became the National Karter of the Year and PSA awardee. New karters like Marave, George Apacible, Richard Joson, Lee Bumgarner and celebrity Richard Gomez battled it out with Macky Carapiet, Silverio and other veterans like us. The fans really enjoyed this and even inspired the creation of the Cebu Kart track. This continued until 1997 when the Asian Financial Crisis came and the support for the National Series was terminated.
Nevertheless, the huge popularity generated by karting was enough to keep the Super Series going and also created the regional Asian Karting Championship. There was also a big resurgence of young and talented drivers in Michelle and Mark Bumgarner, Tyson Sy, Matteo Guidicelli, Marlon Stockinger and Ivan Carapiet. These drivers made it big in international formula races and were the pride of Philippine motor sports after their karting careers. Some even became celebrities in their own right.
With this brief recap of what transpired in Philippine motor racing history during the past three decades, you now have an idea of the present state of local motor sports. Some disciplines such as 4×4 extreme off-roading, “Run What You Brung” and drifting are barely surviving. Other disciplines like drag racing, slalom, time attack and autocross are doing very well with their big following, and the growing number of participants and sponsors. However, others are in need of a big shot in the arm like rallying, dirt trials and sampaguita-type rallies.
My advocacy is to bring back the glory days of local motor sports through the various media projects and endeavors I am presently involved in. These are our Turbo Time Radio Show (every Monday, 8-11 pm at Home Radio 97.9 FM), our soon to be aired SPEED By MP Turbo TV show, SPEED MAX online magazine, PITSTOPS TV segments and my column in The Manila Times. We will also help organize events that will revive some of the disciplines especially rallying and karting.
I hope you can all contribute and help our beloved sport by doing your share either as participant, race official, media person, spectator or sponsor. If you cannot run in them, just helping out through marshaling and volunteerism will be much appreciated. Let’s keep praying that we will again see racing’s golden age back soon and make that stand! Godspeed to all!