Friday, May 12, 2006
Philippine Touring Car Season 2006 is on!
The Philippine Touring Car Championship got off with a blast on May 7, firing out its first two rounds with a mixed grid composed of Group 1 (souped up cars) and Group 3 (not souped up cars).
Kookie Ramirez seemed to be out for some payback, taking pole position in the starting grid after besting Jody Coseteng by 1 second during the qualifying heat held the day prior to the races. I haven't gotten the official results yet as Jody had lodged a protest, perhaps suspecting other racers had made unsanctioned modifications in their cars. I'll provide the scores as soon as I get them from Race Fans and Chief PTCC promoter Boss Richard Santos.
In the meantime, we're going to do some celebrating with the Automobile Association of the Philippines on Sunday. It's the AAP's 75th Anniversary and apart from the yearly awards, they are -- for the first time -- enshrining three guys in their hall of fame.
Junep Ocampo, who wrote a coffee table book for AAP "In the Fast Lane" -- yes, he wrote the entire coffee table book -- also wrote the introduction for each of the Hall of Fame awardees...
If I may, I'd like to print what he wrote here because I found it quite informative:
Our first AAP Motor Sports Hall of Fame awardee needs no introduction. He is long considered the father of Philippine motor sports, having been responsible for organizing most of the early races in the '50s and the '60s. Most of his adulthood years were spent promoting motor sports. And even in his death, he succeeded in etching motor sports permanently onto the Filipinos' national consciousness.
Just like all great sportsmen of the world, he was born to drive. He had them all – motorcycles, cars, boats and even airplanes. Being the youngest child of a former Philippine president, he got to have these expensive toys. Even as he grew up and became one of the Philippines' foremost taxation lawyers, his heart remained fixed on car racing.
Old-timers always give him the credit for organizing the earliest drag races at the abandoned Nielsen Airport runway in Paseo de Roxas Makati in the 1950s and the first attempts at oval races at the Santa Ana horse race track.
He is also acknowledged as the foremost promoter of karting. In 1965, he built the first karting track in the country in his hometown in Tanauan, Batangas. The track served as venue for several Asian Karting Prixs participated in by karters from different Asian countries.
Our awardee was a born leader. He organized not only the races, but the racers as well. He was the founder and first president of the Cam Wreckers Association, a group of car racing aficionados who organized races and later competed as a team in major racing events. With the Cam Wreckers, he organized the annual Shell Car Rally which later evolved into what we is now known as Sampaguita Rally.
But the greatest and still unsurpassed accomplishment of our awardee as a Filipino racecar driver was his back-to-back victories in the Macau Grand Prix, the foremost car racing event in Asia in the '60s and still considered one of the toughest racing events today. He won the Macau Grand Prix in two successive years – in 1962 and 1963 -- on board a Lotus Formula Junior. He was chasing for his third victory in 1967 when, in the third lap of the race, he lost control of his car, slammed on the Macau seawall, exploded in flames and killed him instantly.
He was only 36 years old when he died, and had he been alive today, he would have been as old as AAP.
Thirty nine years after his death, the Automobile Association Philippines is inducting into its Motor Sports Hall of Fame the one and only father of Philippine motor sports, the late Arsenio "Dodjie" Laurel.
Our second Hall of Famer is a friend of Dodjie Laurel's and a long-time classmate of our third awardee. Just like Dodjie, he had been into cars for as long anyone could remember. Historians who write about the young people of the post-war Manila recall him as having the flashiest car in town.
And he loved to race. He and Laurel were two of the regulars in the early drag races in Paseo de Roxas and later in Quezon Avenue near the University of the Philippines where both of them studied Law. He also competed in go-karts, mostly at the Nichols Airbase parade grounds and at the Luneta.
Our awardee served as vice president of the Cam Wreckers when Dodjie was still alive. He took over Dodjie's place after the latter's death in Macau and he continued organizing drag races – this time at the Meralco Avenue in Pasig – and the Shell Car Rally which later evolved into the Rally of Champions.
One unforgettable motor sports event where our awardee figured prominently both as an organizer and competitor was the first Philippine Grand Prix in Cebu City. Being the Cam Wreckers president at the time, he was among those who put together the event and later on competed in it. He won the Stock Class race on board his favorite Austin Mini, but he lost in the Modified Class event due to a technicality. He was black-flagged in the middle of the race in what was the first recorded disqualification in Philippine motor sports history.
In the '70s, our awardee opted to concentrate more on organizing races. He was named member of the Philippine Motor Association National Committee on Motor Sports in 1972, a post he occupied until his election to the PMA presidency in 1982, Under his watch, the PMA – now known as AAP – expanded its motor sports' reach, with the Philippines being elected to the Senate of the FIA, the world governing body for motor sports.
Our awardee served as PMA president for 17 years. It was in those years that legitimate racetracks in Carmona, Batangas, and Subic were born. And it was in those years that the different motor sports disciplines – from drag racing and karting to rallying and circuit racing – reached entirely new levels.
It was just sad that our awardee left us in 1999 at the age 65. But his legacy lives on as more and more young people continue his passion for motor sports.
Without further ado, let's pay tribute to our second AAP Motor Sports Hall of Fame recipient, the late Attorney Conrado "Dodo" Ayuyao.
The third and last person whom we are inducting tonight to the AAP Motor Sports Hall of Fame has a connection with our first two hall-of-famers. Our second hall-of-famer was his classmate in grade school to high school, and our first hall-of-famer was the one who introduced him to motor sports in the 1960s.
Our awardee was a late-bloomer. He only began racing go-karts when he came back to the Philippines from the United States in 1963. He was already 32 years old then, and he began what would be a 40-year motor sports career on a go-kart that Dodjie Laurel lent him.
He may not have the flashy cars of Dodjie or Dodo, but he had the heart and the passion to drive. He would drive for you even from Pagudpud to Sorsogon if you would let him. What he lacked in equipment he compensated with his fierceness and hunger. He was in all the races – mostly driving borrowed cars. And the best thing about him was he was always winning.
He won the Shell Car Rally in 1966 on board a Renault. In the next two years, he was Driver of the Year of the Philippine Motor Sports Club by virtue of his victories in many slalom events at the Nichols Airbase and the Manila International Airport grounds.
He competed in most of the major racing events in history mostly driving Toyotas. He was in the Cebu Grand Prix in 1969, Manila Grand Prix in 1970, Greenhills Grand Prix in 1971 and the series of races in Ortigas Center and BF Homes. And because he was always slugging it out for the championships, he often found himself figuring in controversies and accidents. One accident he had in 1977 – with the late Arthur Tuason in BF Resort Village in Las Piñas – was so serious that he himself called for the stop of circuit racing. He vowed never to race or organize a race again if it was not in a legitimate racetrack.
He resumed racing only in 1994 after finally putting up the Subic International Raceway. Now at 72, he still competes in club races while his three sons, a daughter-in-law and two grandsons all compete in various racing events.
Our awardee is often called the Bearded One, mainly because of his omnipresent beard that has become his trademark over the years. Unknown to many, his beard is also related to his fast driving. He grew it to conceal a scar that he got when he miraculously survived a car crash on Edsa in the '60s.
Let's call him now, the Bearded One, the Living Legend of Philippine motor sports, our third and last inductee to the AAP Hall of Fame for tonight, Mr. Jose "Pocholo" Ramirez, Jr.