Opinion: The harsh realities of motorsport

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Tell people you race cars as a hobby and watch them form a perception that is significantly different from the reality. It doesn’t surprise – what do they know of motorsport except from what they’ve seen watching The Fast and the Furious? Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and the rest of the seminal cast have pretty much defined motorsport to the uninitiated.

Karerista ka pala, boss?” they usually exclaim when seeing this writer sweating profusely in-between Sch. 40 scaffolding in his corny Korean car.

San kayo kumakarera?” When you tell them you usually race in mall parking lots, you see the tempest brewing in their minds, trying to juxtapose the image of the four-abreast acceleration contest with their neighborhood Puregold.

Nagba-Batangas din ako minsan,” you retort. And the next thing you hear from them is, “Kinakalaban nyo rin ba si Jomari (Yllana)?”

Without going to the specifics on the differences between the bring-your-best-bakal Circuit Showdown and the regulated realm of Philippine GT/PTCC. Without going to the fact that you ain’t an artista and make a similar level of disposable income. Without even fathoming the difference in skill level and experience. Without even considering the only similarity between the Elantra and his Genesis Coupe is the crooked H on their schnozzes. You just simply say “Opo” and end the conversation with a smokey launch.

Or be honest and say, no, you race in a different series and state that you have not met Jomari, Aiko, Marian Rivera, Anne Curtis, or whoever showbiz personality that happens to be tangentially related to motorsport.  Which reminds me, what the hell happened to Matteo Guidicelli? Can someone lead him back from showbiz to motor racing? And maybe I can take his place instead?

While breathing in evaporated molecules of yours truly’s sweat, they look around the cockpit of the alleged racecar. The first thing that catches their eyes is the hydraulic handbrake. “Ano yan, boss?” they ask.

What should I reply?
A. It’s a hydraulic handbrake.
B. It’s my NOS activation stick.
C. It activates a transfer case so I can shift to low gear.
D. Palamuti lang ‘to, sir.

Starting to become a smartmouth. Must be the heat, or the inanity of it all. Still, why is the truth important when the fiction is much more acceptable? But of course, we’re truthful and don’t want to mislead. “Handbrake po ito, para pumalo ang puwet ng sasakyan habang lumiliko.”

So nagdi-drifting pala kayo? Nakakasama ba ninyo si Ryan Agoncillio at si Juday?

Haaaay. It never ends.


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As we have highlighted in a previous article, in the first weekend of May, the Lotus F1 team held an exhibition event in the streets of Manila. They brought with them Marlon Stockinger, the Fil-Swiss standout that they have nominated to be part of their junior team.  He is one of seven aspiring race car drivers who hope to one day occupy some of the twenty seats in the pinnacle of all motorsport.

We are all charmed by his heartthrob looks, geniality and racing vitae (he, after all, won at Monaco). I actually met him in person through a common acquaintance quite some time back and was taken aback that he was an average Joe just like you and me, except that he was racing in Europe most of the time and I was just fooling around in rental karts and crapcan Korean cars. I’m sure that the rest of this archipelagic nation also aspires that he can someday be our Manny Pacquiao in F1 – our pambansang tsuper, if you will.

Marlon probably has the skills to make it to F1. But skill alone does not sustain your racing ambitions. You would think that getting the full support of the Lotus F1 team via its Junior Team initiative is an almost guaranteed surety of his making it. That is certainly not the case.

Marlon Stockinger has to prove his worth to the Team. Not by race wins or championships, though. He has to be bankable.

The shtick is for the Lotus F1 Team to inspire the motorsports spirit of the Philippines and six other countries that the rest of the Junior Team come from. What better way for them to solicit sponsorships than convincing the bigwigs of each of their countries that it only takes a blank check for their citizens to get to F1?

C! Magazine editor-in-chief James Deakin relays that to get him an F1 seat, we – or in all likelihood a consortium of large Philippine companies and the government – should give the powers that be fifteen million Euros. That’s a fifth shy of one trillion PHP’s. Seriously, that much for an “embassy on wheels”? I’d rather Ernest Cu use that amount to make sure my calls don’t get dropped.

Genii Capital, the practically absolute owner of the Lotus F1 Team, has these roadshows and is otherwise active in Formula 1 in order to attract business partners for their primary business, which is investment management and financial advisory. That underscores something, that motorsport has to be a business to be self-sustaining.

Participation in races is only one aspect of what makes teams successful. Enzo Ferrari, raised funds to continue racing by making road cars. Ron Dennis is trying to do the same with McLaren Cars. Other teams in F1 and other top-tier disciplines have dedicated staff to solicit and manage sponsorships. And so on. The fuel that moves the world of racing is money. You, me, and the carabao in the palay field all know that.

Locally, the most successful team to make motorsports a business is, in our opinion, Tuason Racing School (TRS). Honestly, I don’t want to sign up for their Basic Circuit Racing class (because I’ve already gone through it, sorta – another tale for another article, perhaps). I want to learn how they make their operations sustainable.

The last generation of TRS school/race cars were Ford Fiestas. We thought that Ford gave the cars gratis for them to trash around. However, we were given to understand that the cars in fact were financed through a leasing company. As a novitiate in motorsports, this was an eye-opening info for me. But not surprising to the elders, to say the least.

An old wizened slalom racer once told me that you cannot expect to run a racing program that is completely sponsor-financed in the Philippines. Motorsports isn’t that big of a deal in this country for many corporates to shell their shekels at. He advised that the most you can hope for is a 50% subsidy – meaning, you will still front for half the cost of your racing endeavors. You have to earn that 50% yourself somehow.

But of course, it may take a Marlon Stockinger to change that paradigm. Or maybe not. Hasn’t Tom Stockinger, Marlon’s dad, supported him practically the whole way to where he is now?

But fifteen million Euros a year is probably more than what a “soccer dad” can afford. If it takes that to get Marlon an F1 seat, it is up to the marketing boffins at the major local companies to justify Marlon’s F1 seat as good for business. And of course, the spinmeisters in the traditional motoring media will try to convince said boffins.  So, if you think Marlon, Lotus F1, Genii Capital, motoring journalists, et.al. deserve support, and you have the capacity to help, financially or socially, please do so. At least the people concerned ain’t aiming to scam you.

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Image credit: zimbio.com

We’ve all have heard of the NASCAR Experience scandal, otherwise coined as NASCAM, floating around our broadsheets and Facebook feeds. Weeks before the supposed race we have personally seen the excitement on the face of one of the participants, and thus are crestfallen at the resulting turn of events.

We here are not to comment on the truth or the fiction of the situation, as we are so far removed from it all we cannot even discern the validity of any statement publicly released via the formal Philippine motoring media. We are also not gonna comment on the fact that Filipinos seemingly only know one form of exacting justice, which is to use social media to ruin reputations.

Instead, we rather write something addressed to the sponsors who partially funded this quixotic quest and are considering helping out others.

Sponsors, if you really wish to uplift the state of Philippine motorsport, instead of getting instant marketing gratification by riding on the coattails of those who have reached the higher echelons of racing, focus on figuring out how to make motorsports accessible to the multitude that won’t consider it otherwise.

Matthew Effect aside, there is a certain flaw with the top-down approach, if uplifting motorsports is the goal. Case in point, Imelda Marcos:

“I am my little people’s star and slave. When I go out into the barrios, I get dressed because I know my little people want to see a star. Other presidents’ wives have gone to the barrios wearing house dresses and slippers. That’s not what people want to see. People want someone they can love, someone to set an example.” — Imelda Marcos, from the Los Angeles Times, October 1980 (source)

By being a role model to barrio lasses everywhere, what has that achieved? Poor Filipinos back then are still poor today. The same may be true for motorsports. Supporting the haves and the greats does not create a thriving motorsports culture. You don’t create more Marlons, Antons and Pastors by supporting just them.

I’m not saying you should instead support the nobodies like Jahan Kalam and his overweight, overpowered Elantra. (Or maybe you should.) You should initiate mechanisms that other nobodies can join in and hopefully become somebody someday. TRS had it with their Top Driver Challenge and their Interschool Karting Championship. I was one of the leftovers of those programs and am thankful for it.

Mr. PSE-listed company honcho, support the organizers that aim to reach their particular disciplines out to the general public. See for yourself what a spectacle it is for hundreds of aspiring racers squealing tires and revving engines in front of an enthralled public. That’s most every Slalom weekend for me.

If you do take the plunge and are sponsoring something in motorsports, please don’t be half-assed in your execution. Please show some effort, please go all out – Philippine motorsports deserves it. We’ve seen a major tire sponsor of a championship not bothering to supply stickers for the competitors to slap on their race cars. What visibility do they have when the cars are away from the racing? There isn’t even a preferential cost savings for regular racers, thus people like our team are struggling to run their brand in their championship. (We run Achilles Radial tires.) What a waste of promotional effort. Throwing money alone at something does not make it do beneficial things for you.

And finally, if nobodies like me approach you for sponsorship, instead of simply rejecting us, please teach us what we should do to improve our proposals and ourselves. If we can’t get your monetary support, we at least can learn from our misses. Don’t treat us like beggars. Treat us like potential roving billboards, micro-ambassadors of your brand. Surely, though cash-strapped to achieve our dreams, we don’t need your charity nor pity.

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