The country’s sole one-make touring car racing series, the Toyota Gazoo Racing Vios Cup, made a triumphant comeback over the weekend after more than a year-long hiatus due to the Covid-19 lockdowns.
Despite the prevailing quarantine conditions, organizers and participants pushed for the resumption of races this July. And while the mood remained festive, all efforts were geared to make the racing not only successful, but also the event, COVID-free.
Having a semblance of the good old days of the pre-pandemic Vios Cup events, Toyota Motor Philippines spared no expense to ensure that racers, their crew, even the event organizers and invited attendees all tested negative for Covid-19. It also made sure that everyone who attended also observed the mandated health protocols for events and gatherings. Strangely though, this year’s Vios Cup is a sign that things are no longer what they used to be.
When the Vios Cup was first held in 2014, the atmosphere was noticeably different. It was a festival that celebrated speed. It was an open house where not only racers were welcome, but also their families and spectators alike. The carnival-like ambiance, complete with rides, games and even concerts, all complemented the tight and competitive, at times even controversial, racing that followed. The action happened on and off the track and this showed how seriously the drivers and teams took the series.
Seven years on, the racing still reeked of intensity. The paddocks, even without spectators this time around, were still hot with anticipation as the teams focused on putting on a good race for their sponsors. And seven years on, as a positive consequence of its longevity, the Vios Cup has evolved into a true stepping stone for a future career in racing.
In round one of this year’s championship, a familiar surname resurfaced on the top of the timing sheets. Third generation racing Anton, Iñigo, is the 17-year old son of local multi-discipline racing icon Carlos. He has finally started his touring car career in this year’s Vios Cup. For those who have been following motorsports since the 1980s, Carlos has entered and won almost every form of motor racing there is in the country. And his father himself was also involved in the local motorsports scene during his time. Now, Carlos has all this breadth of racing knowledge and experience to pass on to his son. Inigo’s budding racing career started really early. At four years of age, he was already steering a car from his father’s lap. By the age of 10, he was racing against older gents in touge and autocross events. With his father right by his side every step of the way, the young lad now finds himself competing in his first touring car championship. And just to prove his potential, over the weekend Iñigo bagged two first place finishes along with a second place victory in the first three legs of the Sporting Class of the Vios Cup.
“My first priority is to help secure the team title for Obengers, says Iñigo.” My second priority of course is to try to win the individual title in Sporting Class. I know it will be hard for the individual title since it’s my first year in circuit racing. He adds, I’ll try to learn what I can from the more senior drivers in our team so I can get up to speed. It will be a very steep learning curve but I am ready!”
Such grounding and self-awareness speaks highly of Iñigo’s race breeding and bodes well on this young gentleman’s future in the sport.
But Iñigo is not the only young driver this season who sees the Vios Cup as a ladder to reaching higher racing aspirations. His Obengers teammates, 23-year-old Estefano Rivera and 18-year old Miguel Quiñones, compete in the top-echelon Super Sporting and Sporting classes, respectively. While 15-year old Joaquin Garrido is also trying his luck in the Sporting Class against Iñigo. And then there are the hard charging ladies as well like Maila Alivia and Elysee Menorca who, like other women who took to the track since the beginning of the Vios Cup, are also going for the championship in their respective categories.
With the many new drivers who competed in the series throughout its past six racing seasons, the Vios Cup has certainly opened new doors for young talents to make a name for themselves. This perhaps, is the event’s biggest contribution to Philippine motorsports.
Aside from the entertainment and interest it brings to the local racing scene, the Vios Cup’s relatively affordable P1.4 million++ price of admission for a turnkey racecar is a compaelling draw to those who spend about the same amount in competitive go karting. The democratization of racing with an everyday car turned serious racing machine, as well as the international scope of Toyota’s Vios Cup racing program, has given a chance for dreamers who wish to pursue their racing careers not just in the country, but also abroad.
But if there is one thing the resumption of the Vios Cup last weekend has really proven, it is the competitive spirit of the Filipino. Amidst adversity and the trying conditions of Covid-19, there are many who will still challenge the limitations of the real world if only to fight for victory. TMPI could easily have called it a day and diverted its budget to other “safer” and less risky marketing campaigns, but it chose to defy the odds and push for the return to normality.
While we live in the new normal today, we all yearn to have a semblance of the good old days when we could do track days on a whim or spend weekends at the track when racing was a spectator sport. Hopefully, this year’s Vios Cup will be the start of a new era of motorsports in the country where skill, talent and merit are the only things necessary to make it big in racing, and not just another event that needs to adapt to the trying times.
Motoring and motorsports are two of Mikko’s greatest passions. Combining more than twenty years of professional automotive photography and videography experience with years of touring car racing competition, and a deep understanding of the car industry, from both the manufacturers’ and consumers’ points of view, have given him a unique and insightful perspective in the motoring beat.