Motor racing, admittedly, is a great way to promote the performance traits of an automotive brand. This year’s constructors’ champion in Formula 1, Mercedes-Benz, is certainly reaping all the positive PR points from its dominance in the series. But if you think about it, the German carmaker isn’t selling formula cars. What races around the world’s most iconic racetracks isn’t available to the public.
In this regard, we can say that the most credible form of motorsports is one that makes use of actual cars sitting on showroom floors. To be specific, one that runs completely stock vehicles—meaning unmodified cars that real-world consumers can get their hands on when they go and buy a unit. The basic premise is this: If a stock car can handle the more rigorous demands of a race, then it must be very good. And when said race is an endurance one, the reputation of a stock car (if it crosses the finish line many nonstop hours later) becomes all the more enhanced.
Such was the case with the Mazda 2 subcompact hatchback, which competed in the 2016 Philippine Endurance Challenge held at Clark International Speedway last December 4. Bermaz Auto Philippines, the official distributor of Mazda vehicles in the country, fielded in two units of the 2 hatchback in the eight-hour race—one in the Fully Modified 2 Class and another in the Manufacturer Class.
True, Toyota has been staging the one-make Vios Cup for a few years now. But while the engines used in the Vios Cup are supposed to be stock, other components (including wheels, tires, brakes, steering wheel, roll cage, etc.) are not. The PEC’s Manufacturer Class, on the other hand, requires that participating cars be all stock.
“The cars have to be completely stock,” BAP press relations manager Mikko David told Fast Times. “Not even a roll cage was needed. But the passenger seat could be removed to accommodate a fire extinguisher. Still, we didn’t remove any of our seats even if it also meant some weight savings. Our brake pads were all stock, too.”
The #17 Mazda 2 entered in the FM2 Class was driven by Edwin Rodriguez and BAP executives Ramil de Vera and Mikko David. The #18 Mazda 2 in the Manufacturer Class, meanwhile, was piloted by Clifford Certeza, Ian Khong and motoring journalist Iñigo Roces.
There were a total of 29 cars on the starting grid, with the race commencing just a little before 9am. As it was a nonstop race for a third of a day, five cars weren’t able to see the finish.
Unfortunately, the #17 car succumbed to electrical issues after 73 laps. David attributed the debacle to natural wear, the car having already raced (and won) for two years in the Philippine Touring Car Championship.
Fortunately for the Mazda team, the #18 car made it to the end, completing a total of 160 laps, good enough to beat the other car in its class, which, incidentally, was a 1.3-liter Vios (158 laps). According to David, the Vios was initially leading, but a long pit stop allowed the 2 to overtake and eventually build a two-lap advantage.
“This is truly a race won not only with a superior car and talented drivers, but also through the efforts of a solid team of passionate Mazda Philippines employees who devoted their time and effort to this race,” remarked BAP president and CEO Steven Tan. “The Mazda 2 Skyactiv is continuously proving to be an excellent platform for grassroots racing. With its Skyactiv-engineered suspension, chassis and engine, it also managed to capture this year’s Division 3 100hp class in the 2016 PTCC with Edwin Rodriguez at the helm. Now, even in purely stock form, complete with seats and all trimmings, it has again endured the extremes of a pure racing environment to come out as a worthy platform to celebrate driving.”
Speaking of the team, the Mazda pit crew featured Bermaz Auto Philippines technical and service specialists, and Filipino Bermaz technicians from Malaysia.
“It is but natural that we make use of the skills and talents of our BAP employees and Bermaz technicians,” Tan added. “This experience not only elevates the company personnel’s skills set, but also provides an excellent outlet of their passion for the Mazda brand. It allows us to live and breathe the Jinba Ittai experience that is inherent in every Mazda vehicle that our customers drive.”
Mazda also provided logistics support to the other 2 car run by Automobile Association Philippines with its Motorsports Development Program scholars. In all, the three units of the Mazda 2 completed a total of 345 laps around the 4.2km circuit.
Not bad for a little car, is it?