Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Racing cars in the Philippines

In a recent interview with Mr. Pochollo "Tito Poch" Ramirez on the history of motorsports in the Philippines, he had told me about the greatness that was the Manila Grand Prix and touched briefly on the idea of building a race track at the reclamation area near where the SM Mall of Asia is.

It was quite interesting to learn from one of the country's foremost car racing legends that the Manila Grand Prix (which ran the length of Roxas Blvd. to Del Pan Bridge on A. Bonifacio) had been one of the events signalling that the Philippines had shined a beacon as a power in motorsports. (You can get a fuller account of the Manila Grand Prix in Fast Lane, the first coffee table book on Philippine Motorsports and is written by my former boss, Junep Ocampo.)

Tito Poch said that it gathered a crowd of about 50,000 spectators and at that time, this was a huge number. That's like the entire crowd at the Araneta coliseum during a major PBA game and people watched the Manila Grand Prix under the glaring heat of the tropical sun. The Manila City Government, then led by my Dad's beloved boss, Mayor 'Yeba' Villegas, had given his full support to the race despite opposition from certain quarters.

In anycase, I felt I had to ask Tito Poch if this could still be achieved today. He pointed out that government support would be crucial to creating and promoting the Philippines as a car racing capital. Currently, his own race track (the Subic International Raceway) is thoroughly being buggered by Fedex and because of changes in the area where the race track is, the SIR lost its FIA accreditation -- an accreditation that would enable it to host international racing events such as the AF3. Subic, rather than the Batangas Racing Circuit, would be a better venue for hosting international racing events -- even F-1 or maybe even just the World Tourinc Car Championships -- because of its proximity to hotels and resorts that could accomodate thousands of foreign tourists who flock to these events.

Junep Ocampo, still did one better by saying that a racing circuit was in the works and that it would be built at the reclamation area near where the SM Mall of Asia is right now. The plan was to make use of the existing road system but with the addition of bleachers and other amenities. Hotels and casinos could be built up around the area, pretty much like Macau.


That certainly would be the answer to the current latent crisis affecting the motorsporting industry where there are few sponsors willing to funnel in the millions of pesos that it requires to develop into a major crowd and tourist draw.

Even Race Fans Inc., organizer and promoter of the Philippine Touring Car championships, is having a heck of a time convincing companies to fork over part of their advertising budget to help support the sport.


Then again, I really have to ask, if I were an advertiser and my company was engaged in either the sale or manufacture of automotive products, would I really benefit from supporting the PTCC?

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...