Filipinos will once again be competing in one of the world’s most prestigious and most grueling and challenging sports car races, the 24 Hours of, this weekend. Now, before you ask who the drivers are and what car they will be driving, let me address a long-held misconception about the sport.
Whenever we watch motorsports events, we automatically keep our eyes on two things—the driver and the car. The performance and relative interaction among the competing racers and their rides determine the entrant’s finishing order in the race. However, we often neglect the fact that behind every driver and car pairing, there is an army of hardworking professionals who are tasked to ensure man and machine work harmoniously before, during and after the race. These are the technicians and mechanics.
This year Eurasia Motorsports, an Asian-based race team, will be fielding the number 74 Ligier JS P217 in the 89th running of the annual race. Despite the team carrying another nation’s flag and a trio of drivers of varying nationalities in the official entry list this year, Eurasia continues to employ a tightly knit group of Filipinos to run its garage. Make no mistake about it. This is full-on international racing and our countrymen are letting it all hangout as they ensure the car under their care runs without a hitch in the 24-hour race.
“Vital” is what Eurasia Motorsport team principal, Mark Goddard, has to say about the role of the Filipino technicians who form the backbone of the team. “Not only do they ensure the car is immaculately prepared but they also undertake the pit stops,” shares Mark. “We are competing at World Championship-level and the guys are as good as anyone in the pit lane.”
Eurasia has been employing Filipino mechanics for years and it all started when Mark set-up the Shell Toyota Alabang Formula Toyota and Corolla Cup teams in 1996. “I was able to train the mechanics of the British way of running race cars,” recalls Mark. “And whilst some are still with us in Eurasia Motorsport, some went on to other teams throughout the region and helped train new mechanics the correct way of working.” He adds, “Our mechanics are hard working, very skilled with lots of experience.”
And how can they not be so good? The Filipinos running Eurasia Motorsport’s operation have to keep in shape as they practice their routines to continue operating at a high level. Jhonary De Mesa has been working with Mark Goddard’s team for more than 18 years. This is his fifth 24-hour outing at the Sarth road-racing circuit.
Deme, as he is fondly called, is currently preparing for the 24 Hours of Le Mans along with 7 other Filipinos in the Eurasia garage. “Before the race we see to it that the car will be ready to finish the 24 hours,” shares the 32-year veteran mechanic. “Every small bolt and every little detail we have to check. From mechanical to electrical, the whole car must be trouble-free during the race to win in Le Mans,” he adds.
“Almost every day before the race happens, we do around 20 or more pit stop practices to see to it that we are 100% prepared and perfect with the sequence,” he shares. Right now, Deme and the rest of the Filipino crew have gotten down their pit stop times to about 12.8 seconds. And this includes changing four tires. “I think we are already competitive compared to the European teams,” he proudly claims.
But performance and precision during the race is when it matters the most. “The hardest part of the Le Mans race is during a pit stop,” says the 52-year old Tiaong, Quezon native. “The whole race has almost 29 pit stops and you have to change tires and refuel each time,” he adds. “As a gun man during the pit stop, I need more than 100% focus when a car goes into the box. I need to adjust and be able to switch the rotation of the gun at least six times.”
The training, discipline and attitude Deme and his crew have cultivated over the years has surely paid off not only on the track, but also back at home. Deme now runs a small car tuning shop in his hometown. Whenever he leaves for international racing stints, he has two mechanics and an electrician running the shop. He also leaves behind a wealth of experience to his crew.
“Racing is my passion as well as my hobby. And it is also my source of income,” professes Deme. “Joining the Le Mans race is every mechanic’s dream. It is my dream. I am so lucky to have realized my dreams through Eurasia Motorsports and with my boss, Mark.”
As Eurasia Motorsport has trained young race drivers for a future career in international racing, it has also opened the doors for our skilled and talented countrymen to earn experience through international competition.
Current Formula One drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Antonio Giovinazzi, along with a certain Filipino named Marlon Stockinger, have all started their international racing careers with Eurasia Motorsport. But do remember these names as well: Roberto Bautista, car controller and chief mechanic; Allan Cruz, driver, helper and mechanic; Ritchel Artillaga, fuel man and mechanic; Joselito Bondad, fire extinguisher man and electrician; Jayson Baustista, John Arvie Cosico and Wendel Jay Daniel who are all tire men and mechanics; and of course, Deme, the team’s designated pneumatic gun man. These are the Filipinos behind the scenes who will work tirelessly to ensure that their drivers run a competitive car in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours race.
Their names may go unnoticed. They will not be shown in any other publication. Not even mentioned in any race coverage. But knowing they are out there doing their best and giving their all for car number 74 gives a sense of pride that is just as strong as when a Filipino driver is behind the wheel at Le Mans.
Let us wish them all the best of luck. Godspeed.
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.