The penultimate round of the Vios Circuit Championship and the Vios Autocross Challenge happened at the Clark International Speedway (CIS) last weekend. Rains occurred as predicted, but the downpour didn’t dampen the spirit of the fans who came to see the races.
The grandstand was full of aficionados who were not disappointed as the wet track provided a dramatic racing setting. The excitement brought about by the sensational debut of the new Supra at the CIS last June was surpassed by having the same car doing pace-car duties for this race day. If Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) had fitted a light bar on its roof, it may even have been driven as the safety car.
Practice day on Friday was not as wet as on race day, when it rained intermittently the whole day. The autocross practice sessions on Saturday morning on the damp track was unremarkable, except for the slippery conditions producing slower posted times. But the last two circuit races were full of incidents.
On the last lap of Race 5, celebrity driver Troy Montero lost control of his Vios one-make race car after the last corner and shunted John Dizon’s car, causing it to hit the tire barriers in front of the main grandstand and flip on its side. Luckily, Dizon’s car ended upright and wasn’t hit by other drivers speeding toward the chequered flag. Both racers were unharmed in the incident, but Montero had to be brought to the hospital for routine safety checks. They did miss the last race of the day as their mechanics didn’t have enough time to fix the cars. The spectacular crash was witnessed by fans on the bleachers, who were surprised when Montero and Dizon walked away from the crash. Without a doubt, the roll cage, seat harness, helmet, and HANS (head and neck support) device all contributed to keeping the drivers safe despite the violent collision.
The last race was even more inundated. Racers kept losing control on almost the exact same spot—the last sweeping turn leading to the finish line straight. Marc Soong spectacularly spun his Make-a-Wish-liveried race car into the sand trap directly in front of the fans in the grandstand. After a lap or two, three other cars crashed into the wall after the finish line. The Bridgestone Potenzas are sticky tires under ideal conditions, but they’ve reached their limits for grip with the amount of water on the track. The safety car went out a couple of times to slow down the race pace while recovery vehicles took out the immobilized cars. Eventually, Race 6 was stopped prematurely due to the atrocious racing conditions.
Meanwhile, my participation in the Autocross Challenge has continued to enrich my racing experience. I noticed how much more comfortable and relaxed I was. My Top Gear PH teammate, Joey Bernardez, and I were consistently getting faster, both of us qualifying for the semis. We have yet to reach the top-four times to get into the final head-to-head, but I’m confident it’s only a matter of seat time before we are more competitive.
In the Car Club category, the youngest competitor, Iñigo Anton, has been dominant, winning all the rounds in his category for this season. But another youngster, only a year older than Anton, has been making waves. Kody Ng is shorter than Anton and looks unassuming in eyeglasses while riding a kick scooter around the paddocks. You’d never mistake him for a seasoned autocrosser.
His interest in racing started early when he could barely sit on arcade game seats. Right after learning to drive, taught by his non-racer father, he wanted to compete in autocross and circuit racing. Encouraged by racing veterans, who took him under their tutelage, he started competing at age 10. With years of racing background, he’s now threatening to beat the category leader Iñigo Anton. He’s faster than the other, more mature club guys, while driving a barely stock, borrowed Vios shod with all-weather street tires. I can only imagine how much faster he’d be in a better-prepped car.
Visitors and guests were treated by TMP to the usual fun games for the entire family. Vios Racing Festival merchandise, like polos, parkas, and caps, were given away to Toyota’s social-media followers. Fans didn’t just watch the races. If spectators weighed less than 70kg, they, too, were able to race on electric drifting carts. The kids with less weight repeatedly lapped faster and carved the track better than the heavier adults. What else is new?
True to its event title, this isn’t the Vios Cup anymore—it’s a celebration of racing. We’re already excited for the next one.