Words by Stefan Ramirez
Last June 7, Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) brought the first leg of the Vios Circuit Championship back to the Clark International Speedway. And while all the booths and event equipment were coming, the engines could be heard roaring, eager to take on the podium. But days prior to the event, teams were already gearing up for practice. With brand new cars and brand new chassis on hand, drivers and mechanics had to work overtime to make sure they could optimize their set up to fully maximize their vehicles. As a driver, I know it can get difficult to adjust to a new car and at the same time learn how to drive the quickest and lower down your times to qualify for the pole, so it was extra exciting for me to see how all the competing teams could rally up and work with the pressure to ultimately, win the race. It’s a refreshing feeling to take a new point-of-view, where you’re watching drivers and their teams work together going over the data, studying track conditions, and making sure each set-up during tests is helping lower the times.
For the first leg of the Vios Racing Festival, organizers decided to combine the sporting class and the celebrity class into one big grid, making it a little more interesting for all the spectators. Come Thursday, the track was reserved exclusively for all the Vios Circuit Championship participants, even celebrities came in to put in times – to see where they fall against each other.
Friday morning started off with qualis, John T. Dizon of Team Obengers racing, running in the sporting class, qualified pole. He was the only one in his class to get down to a 2:26, as other drivers were having a hard time lowering the times. Race 1 came and Dizon who starting in pole was able to pull a gap and keep the position all the way to the chequered flag. He was followed by Gel Napat of Team Biskeg coming in second, and Red Diwa coming in third.
For the promotional class, it was quite an interesting race as they were battling all throughout the race. Teammates Elise Menorca, Francis Adriano, and Julian Tang of Team Obengers, had an intense race as they all were all duking it out during the 12-lap race. Menorca qualifying fastest fell back to third, where Adriano and Tang were left to fight for first.
In the celebrity class, Troy Montero proved to be the one to watch, entering the first race with the fastest time in his class – a whopping 2:28 seconds, three seconds faster than the next in his class, Gretchen Ho. Sadly, as exciting as it was, due to mechanical failure, Montero needed to pit out of the race, allowing Daniel Matsunaga to bring home the gold – surpassing Vios Circuit Championship veterans, Aubrey Miles who finished 2nd, and Ho who finished in a close third. Being the first race of the season, it’s looking to be quite interesting, with the grid being more competitive this year.
Come Day Two, the Toyota Vios Circuit Championship started off with a quick warmup for everyone in the morning. Greeting all the spectators was a beautiful lineup of all the race cars on the grid, made even better with the surprise of the all-new Toyota Supra, driven by Satoru Suzuki, TMP’s President. It was a great way to start the race and gear up for another exciting round.
Let’s skip to the highlights of the day, with Race 2 starting us off. On the reverse grid we see Dizon, now starting in 6th, and Marc Soong on the poll, quite a surprise coming from Dizon’s earlier success during the Day 1 race. Coming into Turn 1 of the first lap, Gel Napat gave everyone a show losing his front right tire and causing him to lose control, and bouncing of the wall, luckily no other driver nor vehicle was harmed, but it did rumble in us a sense of thrill and excitement reminding us why we all sit at the edge of our seats before the races begin.
Come the second lap of the sporting class, Team Obengers proved not to beas fortunate either, with Dizon experiencing some transmission failure causing him to end his race early and leaving Eggy Ong, Red Diwa, and Lord Seno in the Top 3. It was quite a close call between Diwa and Ong, having Ong do a few mistakes on his laps cost him some time, but he was able to make it back on last two laps to ultimately take home the victory.
As for the promotional class, all three Team Obengers racing drivers were in a very heated grid alongside Lord Seno, swapping places, and diving into corners, drafting each other down the straight, while avoiding any contact. In the end, Jonathan Tang retired before the chequered flag was waved due to mechanical failure, resulting in Francis Adriano finishing first place, Julian Neri in second, and Elise Menorca in third. In the celebrity class, Montero who retired early during Race Day 1 was able to make his way from the back of the pack all the way to victory, finishing in first place. He was followed by Gretchen Ho in second, and Daniel Matsunaga in third place.
For the last race of the weekend, drivers felt more determined to do better. And the reverse grid once again proved to be very exciting. Seno and Neri had great starts to their performance in Race 2, getting past Soong in turn one. Soong did not take this lightly, keeping them in sight, he was able to catch up and eventually secured a second place spot. Sadly, due to some vehicle contact this placed Neri back to his number two spot. As Neri and Soong diced their way through, Dizon of Team Obengers who started from the back of the grid and was able to up all the way to second place, with only 0.2611 seconds between him and the leader of the pack as they crossed the finish line.
For the promotional class, Julian Tang also of Team Obengers fought his way from the back to first place. He was followed by Menorca and Adriano who came in second and third, respectively. It seemed to be a very good weekend for Team Obengers, dominating both the competitive and promotional classes.
For the celebrity races, Montero again proved that he has what it takes, moving up multiple grid positions and maintained his first place lead. He was slowly followed by Ho in second, and Miles in third.
Vios Autocross Challenge
Aside from the main races at the Vios Circuit Championship, this year’s league also kicked off with the Vios Racing Festival Autcross Race 2. It was joined by several car clubs, and select media and personalities. All were separated according to different classes. Each class had two qualifying runs and followed by the actual race day on Saturday.
Saturday came and immediately, Inigo Anton showed pace and set the goal time to a high 52 seconds in the early practice session for the car club class. As the day went on, eliminations began and it was down to the top 4 in the car club class. It was Froilan Bacungan Jr. against Alexis lavapie, and Inigo Anton versus Mickie Carbonell. Finals started off with Froilan setting a 54.10 second run, and Alexis Lavapie setting a 53.02, putting the pressure on the other two competitors. Mickie Carbonell set a quick time of 52.65 seconds but sadly was not enough to beat the speed of Inigo Anton. Inigo in his last run set a blistering 49.99 seconds, blowing the competition out of the water. For the media class, you had Jose Luis Altroveros from Autoindustriya pulling of a 53.05 run, and Jeff Soberon from MPTURBO getting a 54.05, only one second separating first and second place. Matt Malari, STV’s camera man, came in third with a 55.15 second time – proving that from all those years of videoing motorsports, he has picked up a few tips and tricks that helped him get to that podium spot.
For the influencer class you had Vince Vandorpe taking the victory with 54.49, Phytos Ramirez taking second place with a 56.83, and coming in third was Reph bangsil with a 57.06. Quite a challenging last few run for everyone as it was neck and neck all the way to the end.
Congratulations to all the competitors and let’s see how they do next race!