Race Report: 5th Leg, 2014 Shell Helix National Slalom Series, June 1, 2014

Image credit: RACE Motorsports Club

Your narrator found himself in the sweltering heat of the Robinson’s Nova Market parking lot. Fidgeting with his hand tools, he silently curses the purgatory he is currently in, trying to loosen a suspension knuckle bolt out of a 2010 Kia Rio.

Sitting beside him, holding a combination wrench onto the opposing nut, was Ralph Devilla, owner of the said Kia Rio. The Korean car had a graphic livery featuring ZIC, an equally Korean brand of engine lubrication product. I don’t know if ZIC makes penetrating fluid, but we can sure as hell appreciate some right about now.

Someone wanted to increase negative static camber by using undersized bolts in the upper knuckle holes. Those bolts have slipped, and so the Rio’s front tire camber became dangerously positive. They were supposed to have been fastened with power tools, so wonder I’m struggling to remove the lower bolts? This ambient heat is really terrible, sapping my energy levels as if the sun was emitting molecular particles of Kryptonite. Ralph was bearing a lot of it, though. His cheeks was starting to turn pink, and it wasn’t due to makeup. It was the start of some serious sunburn.

Tug as much as I could, this gawd damn bolt wouldn’t budge. I could have just napped peacefully at home in this otherwise pleasant Sunday. Why am I here, wrenching on someone else’s car on this massive concrete hot plate in the nether regions of Fairview?

Because I said I would beat him, that’s why.

Sharing aircon with slalom marshalls during the sweltering heat. Image credit: RACE Motorsports Club

My Big Mouth

Lucky I had a nifty ratchet handle extension to get some more leverage on the sucker. It was short work with that, but not that short. We revert back to the standard bolts and put the car back together. Now our steed was ready, the horse that both of us would mount for a battle against time. Elapsed time, that is.

I challenged Ralph to race against me, with tongue firmly in cheek, to see which of us is the faster driver. Last November, we went autocrossing, him in the Rio, and me in an autotragic Nissan N16 Sentra. He trounced me with a time three seconds faster. And I thought I stood a chance, even with a car that was more suited for airport taxi work. Must be my hubris.

Image credit: Ralph Devilla/Enrique Dumo
Image credit: Ralph Devilla/Enrique Dumo

Ralph invited me to join the Slalom race in Fairview. He was generous enough to lend me his car for Round 2 of our grudge match. This was why I was acting as guest bush mechanic for team ZIC Racing. How else to attempt beating him?

The disadvantages against me are clear. I weigh a lot more than Ralph. I haven’t slalomed since November, (but I did go fun-karting one day) and he has raced in the majority of races so far this year. I would be driving a car foreign to me, but not to him since it is his car after all. I told him if I was able to be a half-second slower than him, I would be satisfied.

A bunch of Kia Auto Club Pilipinas members came to watch the “war car” strut its stuff against the Japanese machines. Perhaps Ralph was getting nervous. I was unperturbed; I had nothing to prove. All of us wait for the heat to die down some and let the other racers clean the racing line some. With umbrellas and sunnies on our heads, we watch the show, seeing the Starlets and front-wheel cars undertake their runs. But for me at least, the real battle was yet to come.

Image credit: RACE Motorsports Club


ZIC Philippines is supporting the humble yet budding aspirations of Ralph Devilla, this up-and-coming car racer, as well as a few other racers. Its grassroots motorsports involvement clearly enables them to highlight the high quality of its products.

Ralph’s Rio was running close to 95,000kms on the clock, accumulated in both racing and daily driving usage. With the usage of various ZIC products in the motor and its ancillary systems (transmission, steering, cooling, etc.), the car’s 1.4L G4EE engine was still running like a champ.

Kudos to ZIC Philippines and thanks for helping out Philippine motorsports!

Image credit: RACE Motorsports Club

On the Starlets

The crew at Race Motorsports Club last saw me on the summer of 2013, just before we went to Clark and blew our Elantra’s engine up. Unfortunately they still remember me, so I couldn’t join the Newbies class like I wanted.

When Tita Bing Bang Dulce saw me, she exclaimed, “Lumaki ka na ah!” Oski Nuke added, “Must have had too much sex.” I did not understand what sir Oski said. Don’t male livestock get fatter when castrated?

The way Slalom has been run has not changed in my hiatus, so that was good. This old kuhol.net article describes how a typical Slalom race is conducted. What has changed were the Starlets.

I had the impression that you can’t do nothin’ to make the Starlets go any faster – apart from forced induction and computer-controlled engine management – but I was gravely mistaken. I was walking past the Tough Gear Racing Team tent and noted that their Starlets had their rear ends practically bottomed out. I thought that they were jacking up the front end. Nope. They meant to set their rear ride height at that setting, ‘dropping it like it was hot’, as Snoop Dogg would sorta say it.

Image credit: RACE Motorsports Club

It was a treat seeing the Rivera Starlets do their runs, with behinds almost scraping the ground as if like dogs with an itchy tail section. All for the sake of shifting more weight towards the rear for better handling balance. I was given to understand that their unibodies were hacked to make room for the rear axle’s articulation on the reduced ride height. It seems to have been effective, as the racing optometrist Doc Peewee Mendiola of Big Chill couldn’t touch Milo Rivera for the past four legs, and as it turns out,  even during this one.

I personally am looking forward to the next evolution in tuning these Starlets. Lighter all-aluminum engines, perhaps? Or wider wheels and tires compliant under current sporting regulations? Abangan.

The Results

The records show that I had a run that was 0.3 seconds faster than Ralph’s fastest. This I think does not conclusively prove who is really faster. His second fastest recorded run, as compared to my same run, was faster by 0.38 seconds, and his run had a pylon penalty included. To my credit, however, I did not hit any pylon during my four runs.

Ralph and I were racing under exactly the same conditions, with the same number of official runs, using his car. Given the variability of our times though, it’s just that I was able to squeak by a faster time than him. I bet that if we do this again, he might trump me.

We traded notes about our respective driving styles sometime later. Ralph mentioned that my driving style was “wild”, and that I could probably do with reverting back to the basics as far as honing my race craft is concerned. I hope to improve further and would definitely look forward to “battling” him again.

My takeaway from this experience is that at least my peers from the Kia club community realized that I can also drive as well as Ralph, that racing is still fun even with a borrowed vehicle, and that I am feeling the itch to race again. Hopefully next time with our Elantra, of which we eagerly await its resurrection.

Image credit: Francis Casim/Kia South Triangle
Image credit: Francis Casim/Kia South Triangle

For full results of the 5th leg of the 2014 Shell Slalom Series, click here.

For picture gallery of the event, click here also.

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