Philippine Motorsports is recently experiencing a big resurgence with a lot of people joining the different racing disciplines, big multinational companies throwing in their support and social media bringing it to the younger generation of drivers.
This tidal wave of racing frenzy was not there 3 years ago as the sport was struggling to get good grids in racing back then. Let us trace how our very own colorful Motorsports history came up from the ashes and give credit where it is due.
HEROES OF THE 60’s
Back in the 50’s, the Filipinos’ love for motor cars evolved into simple drag racing and slowly became more organized as a lot more passionate young professionals got involved.
The 60’s racing legend was none other than Dodjie Laurel who won the Macau Grand Prix twice in 1962 and 1963. Dodjie is also the man responsible for bringing in karting and rallying here in the country with the help of his devoted racing group, the Cam Wreckers. Sadly, Laurel died while chasing for his 3rd title in 1967 around the Macau Guia Circuit.
After his tragic death, there were very passionate racers that took up the challenge to continue what Laurel started. These were Paquito Ventura, Dodo Ayuyao, Baby Luna. Chito Monserrat, Ramy Diez, Ramon Rodriguez and a lot more.
The 70’s brought in 2 Grands Prix that signaled the coming of age of racing. The first was the Cebu Grand Prix, held in the Cebu Reclamation Area on December, 1969, The second, bigger GP was the Manila GP at the Luneta Park on July, 1970.
There were more than 50,000 people that watched the Luneta race firsthand and millions saw it live on Television. The car manufacturers like Austin Mini, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Isuzu, Datsun, Volkswagen and Toyota all joined the bandwagon as Motorsports was fast becoming the love of the people.
Ayuyao, Monserrat, Luna and the 70’s young drivers Dante Silverio, Pocholo Ramirez and Arthur Tuason all fought the foreigners led by Macau Champion Albert Poon, American James Cahill and eventual winner British driver Allan Davies in a Mini.
With the on road disciplines taking off in spectacular form, Rallies were also making waves with big events such as the Gedol International Rally in 1975 and the Rally of Champions of 1972 and 1975. The 1975 edition ran for 1,400 kilometers and was even sponsored by our own BLTBCO and Maya Industries.
All of these rallies gave rise to the world class Asean IV International rally in 1979. British Rally Champion Russell Brookes, Australians Colin Bond and Wayne Bell, Swedish Champions Lars Carlsson and Leif Asterhag were all present in different car makes running against their Filipino counterparts.
This gave everyone a chance to see how the best rally drivers in the world can conquer the worst kinds of road conditions and overcome all the mechanical problems of their cars just to get to the finish line. Asterhag in a Toyota Corolla won the event but it was Brookes in a battered Ford Escort that won the hearts of the crowd as they knew how hard it was for him to finish the rally.
With the advent of the world fuel crisis in 1979, racing took a back seat and hibernated. It only came back in 1983 when Alcogas was used in all forms of racing. Rallying came back in earnest and karting got a big boost when new blood came in like our MP Turbo Team.
We did great battles with the Nodalos Team, the Silverios-Ramirezes Team and finally the factory teams of the Mitsubishi Ralliart Team from Hong Kong. In 1991, the Carmona Karting Circuit was finished and this brought the sport of karting to a higher level.
In 1994, the country saw the first permanent racetrack in the old Subic Freeport and was immediately followed by the Batangas Racing Circuit. The late Pocholo Ramirez spearheaded the Subic International Raceway and Johnny Tan for the Rosario, Batangas track. Tan would eventually build more race and kart tracks like the Clark International Speedway and the previous Carmona Track.
With all the logistical requirements present, international races came in droves like the Filipino organized Asian Formula 3 which was organized by racing enthusiast Ed Peña. There were big time racing like the Formula Toyota, Asian Festival of Speed, King of Nations International Drifting, Toyota Vios Cup and the present Formula 4 South East Asia Championship.
All of these would not have happened if the Filipinos didn’t embrace Motorsports. With the international governing Motorsports Authority, FIA holding their World Sport Conference in the Philippines just recently, it affirms that we are getting ready for a big boost in racing soon. Time to invest in the sport and the people behind it! Godspeed!
By Mike Potenciano & Lindy Pellicer