The year 2014 has been an up-and-down year for motorsports. And while we'd like nothing more than to have a top 10 list full of feel-good stories, there are some notable downers on this list. But these are the stories that matter, and even some that you may have missed over the past 12 months.
10. A new track, finally! The new Tarlac Hill Circuit promises to be a light and fun alternative to the larger, more established Clark International Speedway and Batangas Racing Circuit. Watch this space.
9. Porsche's return to LeMans. With a brand-new LMP1 with a 500+hp V4 engine and a 250hp hybrid system--and a driver lineup featuring the ever-likable Mark Webber--Porsche's 24 Hours of LeMans bid was a serious one. While both cars eventually retired, they showed promising pace, and are a strong contender for the overall win in 2015.
8. Shell Eco-Marathon (racing, but not as we know it). The Shell Eco-Marathon at Luneta Park was the first Asian Eco-Marathon event held on the streets instead of a racetrack, and the accessibility to the public made it a big success. Even better, it's returning in 2015. While a bit slow for some people's tastes, it's nirvana for engineering geeks and grease monkeys.
7. Marc Marquez clinches MotoGP championship. Not as big a story as Marquez's rookie championship, but it's still newsworthy. We haven't seen a rider this dominant since Rossi's heyday. Speaking of which: It's nice to see Valentino Rossi himself back in fighting form, clinching second in the championship behind the rookie sensation.
6. Michele Bumgarner joins the Pro Mazda Championship. Despite years of racing in the United States, a professional seat eluded the former karting phenom until she signed on full-time for the World Speed Motorsports team at the Pro Mazda Championship. She has done a solid season, learning the ropes as she went along. We're hoping to see her name in the winner's circle by next season. It can't come soon enough.
Oh, and yeah: Michele collaborated with Top Gear Philippines in Mazda's motorsport event called "Head To Head: Can You Beat Michele Bumgarner in an All-New Mazda 3 Skyactiv?" Let's just say nobody did.
5. A Filipino in the Ferrari Challenge. Not content with simply being the first Filipino to enter the Ferrari Challenge, businessman and avid GT racer Vicente Floirendo went on to clinch fourth overall in the Coppa Shell "Gentleman Driver" class of the series. Impressive for a first-timer up against veterans more familiar with both the machinery and the tracks. Look for a more in-depth feature on the man in the weeks to come.
4. Road rage gone wrong. Though Jules Bianchi's Formula 1 crash at Suzuka was terrifying, the most riveting on-track incident this year was the death of amateur racer Kevin Ward Jr. After tangling with three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart in a dirt track race, he got out of his car to confront Stewart. After nearly being run over by another racer, Kevin was hit by Stewart's car and killed.
While a subsequent investigation cleared Stewart of any wrongdoing, the incident served to highlight the tantrums and fistfights that mar American racing. While NASCAR has updated its rules to prevent further incidents, clamors for a more severe clamp-down on misbehavior, both on and off the track, remain.
3. Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton dominate Formula 1. While everyone else struggled with the new turbocharged hybrid engines this year, Mercedes's turn of speed was shocking. By the time its clever split-turbocharger system had been uncovered, it was too late, engine freeze rules preventing other manufacturers from copying the system.
With Mercedes seconds faster than the rest of the grid in terms of race pace, the only other drivers in the championship hunt apart from Hamilton were Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, who completely trounced teammate and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, and the second Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, who out-qualified Hamilton in a controversial tooth-and-nail fight for supremacy. In the end, the Briton's canny race craft allowed him to convert relatively poor qualifying performances into wins, securing his second championship.
2. Murder of a Filipino race driver. It's hard to ignore how much Enzo Pastor's death has affected the racing community. The popular racer, mentor and race organizer--one of the few homegrown talents to race competitively overseas in formula and stock cars--was gunned down in June in Quezon City while transporting a car to Clark International Speedway.
With his wife in hiding after being implicated by her alleged love affair with the suspected mastermind, there are many unanswered questions about his death. The fallout from this soiled the final running of Enzo's popular grassroots racing series, Circuit Showdown, and has driven a rift between the couple's families.
1. The Vios Cup proves a local racing series can be a success. On a more positive note, the most important story in Philippine motorsports this year has to be the 2014 Vios Cup. Though not without controversy itself (mostly surrounding erstwhile series leader Jason Choachuy's on- and off-track scuffles), the Toyota-organized series featured competitive racing and plenty of on-track action.
The 30-plus-car grid was impressive, even compared to many foreign series. Though 15-year-old Luis Gono clinched the overall title, Top Gear Philippines' own Paulo Rafael Subido won the media trophy in a thrilling, wheel-banging showdown on the streets of McKinley West in Taguig.
While Toyota Motor Philippines spent a huge sum of money on the series, the boost to the brand (and to Vios sales in particular) can't be denied. As a bonus, it gave enthusiasts something to look forward to for 2015.
Artwork by Raynand Olarte