Home > Motoring Events > 2019 Vios Autocross Challenge Round 1: Experiencing Waku-Doki Despite a Bad Back

2019 Vios Autocross Challenge Round 1: Experiencing Waku-Doki Despite a Bad Back

I’ve always savored the chance to compete in motorsports. Be it four wheels or two, on road or off-road, street or circuit, wheel-to-wheel or time trials, speed contests or economy runs. I’ve always known that motorsports is a rich man’s game and that I’m not a wealthy man. When an opportunity arises to join a race for free as a media participant, I jump almost immediately at the chance and grab it.

Thus, when our friends at Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) invited members of the motoring media to register and for us to represent Power Wheels and the Manila Standard for this year’s Round 1 of the Vios Autocross Challenge, which will kick off the 2019 Toyota Vios Racing Festival, I immediately volunteered. I’ve had some experience in auto slalom and gymkhana racing and I was hoping to hone my driving skills again. I was psyching and preparing myself for the races when a simple lifting incident gave me a herniated or slipped disc, which caused me a lot of pain whenever I try to bend my back or even walk.

Oh, my aching back! The author with the celebrity racers.

Honoring a Commitment

Despite my back pain, I decided to honor my commitment and go to the autocross practice and qualifying sessions on Saturday morning (April 27) at the open grounds of the SM Mall of Asia (MOA) in Pasay City. I took two pain killers to mask the back pain that I was feeling, waited for my turn to drive one of the specially-prepared 2019 Toyota Vios race cars, specifically one that will be used by celebrity Gerald Anderson, squeezed myself into the safety roll bar-equipped race car, and then tackled the course that JP Tuason and his boys laid out on the race course.

JP Tuason explains the mirror image race tracks A and B…

… while slalom, gymkhana and autocross champion Milo Rivera gives some racing tips…

… and the participants listen intently with their Game Faces on!

Race car is a 2019 Toyota Vios with enough modifications to make it track- and race-worthy.

The mechanical bits were modified by TRD while the interior was gutted to reduce weight.

The exhaust note is a bit more noisy and powerful compared to a stock Vios.

Rota wheels are shod in meaty Bridgestone Potenza tires.

The “race course” was a mirror track that was quite technical. We were tasked to do our Practice and Qualifying runs on Track B, where most of the turns were right turns, save for one 180-degree left turn, on that Saturday and then race for the Elimination and Championship rounds the next day, Sunday (April 28) on Track A, where most of the turns were left turns, except for one 180-degree right turn. During my practice run on Track B, I finished the course in 1 minute and 30 seconds (1:30), which was not bad, considering my lack of seat time and my bad back, which kept me from focusing on the race.

Racers get strapped into the racing seat with a 4-point harness by one of the marshals.

Chris Van Hooven strapped into the seat sans the top of his ill-fitting racing suit.

The author drove Gerald Anderson’s racing Vios for a time of 1:30 during Practice runs.

It’s Just a Matter of Focus

Of course, getting in and out of a Vios race car with a bolstered OMP racing seat, 4-point racing harness, and roll cage while wearing a racing suit and a helmet is not a pleasant proposition for an out-of-shape 50-plus aspiring racer suffering from a painful slipped disc, regardless of how many pain killers taken. There was no pain during the race but once the adrenaline wore off, the pain became excruciating. So much so, that I opted not to get in for a second practice run. Yet oddly, I was beginning to enjoy myself despite the pain.

The author (center) waiting at the pit area with JP Tuason, Chris Van Hoven of C! Magazine and Allan Santos of Bridgestone. (Photo: JP Tuason)

Race cars line up at the pit area prior to a run…

… and then drive up near the Start/Finish line to wait for their turn at the track.

After lunch, we were called back to the race course for our individual Qualifying runs. I was strapped into the race car of celebrity Troy Montero, focused a bit more on the track than on my back pain, and cut my time by 8 seconds, bringing my qualifying time down to 1 minute and 22 seconds (1:22.13) and landing in ninth place among twenty media qualifiers. I was very pleased with my time, although I know I can do better if I can only concentrate more. I also know that my doctor won’t be pleased if he found out what I was doing. Oh, well…

Track B looks clean but is a bit tricky to navigate.

Toyota Vios club participants practice on Track A.

Gretchen Ho did an impressive run during practice…

… as did Troy Montero who hot foots his Vios around the course.

Not bad for a guy with no practice and a bad back, eh?

Eliminated on Sunday

Whatever fun and mental preparation I had on Saturday went out the door on Sunday. For one, it took me almost two hours just to get up from bed. Ouch, my back pain was back with a vengeance! Then, when I finally got to the autocross racing grounds at MOA, the practice sessions were over. So, I didn’t have any time on Track A where we were going to race for the Elimination rounds. Out of the 20 media participants, only the top 8 will go into the next round, and then only four will go into the Finals, where only the Top Three will be given trophies.

Jet stream added some texture to the Sunday skies above the venue.

Block 16 Open Grounds of the MOA was converted into a racing circuit.

Toyota upped the ante in promoting grassroots racing.

Executives of Toyota Motor Philippines gathered at the VIP tent…

… while celebrities signed autographs for the fans.

Opening ceremonies of the 2019 Toyota Vios Racing Festival…

… began with the welcome remarks of TMP President Satoru Suzuki.

Toyota car club participants pose with the TMP executives.

Media participants pose with the TMP VIPs…

… as did the celebrities.

Using the racing Vios of celebrity Aubrey Miles, I went through the race course unprepared, nearly missing a gate, and turned in a time that was almost the same as my qualifying time of 1:22.13. Or maybe worse… Eight media participants turned in respectable times that were 6 to 7 seconds faster and I got promptly eliminated. Former racer turned journalist Mike Potenciano of MP Turbo and C! Magazine, who clocked the best time (1:15) during qualifying, was likewise eliminated because he got lost in the course and got a DNF (Did Not Finish). I teased Mike that I believe that James Deakin carries a commentator’s curse because every time he comments on a driver’s outstanding performance while driving on the track, something will go wrong. James mentioned that Mike was a leading contender and promptly got eliminated.

Toyota car club participants got into the groove and went very fast.

Gerald Anderson was fast but got eliminated from the Top 4.

Daniel Matsunaga was likewise very competitive…

… as was Aubrey Miles who dipped into the 1:18s.

Gretchen Ho surprised everyone with her low lap times.

Troy Montero showed his winning form on the Track A.

Waku-Doki Racing Fun

Despite my bad performance and my painful predicament, I had a lot of fun! Likewise, it felt so good that despite my ailment, I was able to keep my commitment to participate in the races. I also salute my colleagues from the media who turned in commendable fast times, as well as the members of the car clubs, the influencers, and the celebrities – Gerald Anderson, Daniel Matsunaga, Chief Filomeno, Gretchen Ho, Aubrey Miles, Troy Montero and Fabio Ide – who drove their best and turned in impressive lap times. Here are the official results:

I hope to be able to join the second round of the 2019 Toyota Vios Racing Festival to be held in June at the Clark International Speedway in Pampanga. The Vios Autocross Challenge was organized by Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP), the country’s No. 1 automotive brand, in cooperation with Bridgestone, the world’s No. 1 tire brand, and in partnership with Petron, the Philippines’ No. 1 fuel and oil company. This exciting racing activity was supported by Motul lubricants, Rota wheels, and Toyota Racing Development (TRD), and sponsored in part by Toyota Racing School, Brembo brakes, Denso spark plugs, AVT in-car entertainment and connectivity, 3M Crystalline automotive tint, OMP racing safety equipment, and Tuason Racing School. See you next time at Clark, or better yet… Race you there!

The Toyota pavilion entertained customer inquiries…

… and accommodated test drives of Vios demo cars.

PAEC, which distributes Bridgestone and Firestone tires had a huge display and activity area.

Petron booth besides the Bridgestone display area.

Motul lubricants was present with their tent display…

… while Denso opted for a more open display area to plug their their spark plugs.

AVT in-car entertainment and connectivity opted for a more festive display…

… compared to the stark but informative Brembo booth.

See you at the Clark International Speedway in June…

… to see how your favorite celebrity will fare in the 2019 Toyota Vios Racing Festival.