THEY will all converge today (May 12) in Subic, Olongapo City, all raring to roar off for tomorrow’s much-awaited STV Auto Rally Corporate Challenge (ARCC). Nearly 111 drivers and time/route navigators will hop into some 40 of the flashiest cars of different models from 11 of the country’s top automobile manufactures for this iconic racefest, deemed as the only one of its kind in local motorsports.
Blasting off almost half a century ago, the race, which had global roots in Europe, hibernated for a while due to lack of sponsors.
But the revered Ray Butch “Elvis” Gamboa, recognizing the race’s inherent beauty and priceless heritage, revived it in 2001. He dug deep from his pocket and, despite scant resources, took the plunge against virtually all odds. As fate would have it, the race revival was a smashing success.
From ‘Tulip’ to ‘Sampaguita’
“I just had to do it,” said Elvis, whose almost 30-year-old Motoring Today had pioneered the weekly television viewing of vehicle technology, et al. “I just could not bear the pain of seeing what the likes of racing legends, like Dante Silverio, Mandy Eduque and my late buddy Pocholo Ramirez, had started just die a natural death.”
Since then, Elvis persevered in staging annually the carfest that started originally as “The Sampaguita Rally” in a bold takeoff from “The Tulip Rally” of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
The rally was called “Tulip” because the race’s route resembled that of the petals of the tulip, The Hague’s national flower, which is traditionally a major export earner for the tiny European nation.
Like The Tulip Rally, The Sampaguita Rally, which is now officially known as the STV ARCC, anchors its existence on my battle cry, “Race but arrive on time, all the time.”
As Elvis puts it: “Drive fast, you lose; but drive precise, you win.”
Meaning, for a team to win, it must register the closest time prescribed to cover a designated distance in every leg conceived by Race Director Georges Ramirez and IT expert Patrick Cruz. The nearer a team is to the clocking for every distance means fewer demerits. The team accumulating the least demerits incurred emerges overall champion.
“But teams achieving perfect times in any of the checkpoints get special awards, too,” said Jenny Bleza, the main spirit behind Elvis’s brainchild.
Four vehicles from every company
AS in previous rallies, each car company can field in four vehicles with two to three racers (one driver, one route navigator, one timer; or one driver and one backup in charge both of the route and the clocking) of whatever gender onboard. Three vehicles from one company are allowed but not two, however.
Received with cheers and its 2001 comeback warmly embraced by both car buffs and carmakers alike, Elvis pushed for its yearly staging “for as long as I can”.
This year’s competing car companies include Audi, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Isuzu, Lexus, Mini, Nissan, SsangYong, Subaru and Tata.
Harbor Point in Subic will serve as the flag-off point anew, and Elvis was profuse in thanking Derrick Manuel and Arge Gomez for their valuable help in making this a reality anew.
ONE salient point of the competition is requiring every participant to avoid getting involved in a traffic violation during the race that is run mostly on public roads. A road incident of any kind will merit instant disqualification.
“This is our humble way of educating everybody on road safety and courtesy,” said Elvis, whose Sunshine Television has partnered with Socio Com Foundation for Asia in road and driving security awareness.
The race dismisses speed as a primary component in winning. It is actually skillful driving, accurate navigation and great timing that can make the participating car a winner in the almost day-long event.
“But for new models in attendance alone could be a win-win situation already for the participant,” Elvis said. “Bonding and camaraderie among car executives is also a big plus, as they take precious time off from the rigors of office life.”
WILLY Tee Ten’s record of winning the STV ARCC Champion’s Cup (three victories in 2012, 2013 and 2014) remains unbroken and already, his 2016 champion Mini Team is bent on retaining the crown stolen from them by Subaru in 2015.
Humbly, I am the “unofficial” Lexus Team captain again. And with Danny Isla as Lexus lead man as usual (too bad newly-minted Lexus President Raymond T. Rodriguez couldn’t make it), expect us to win again. Win as in winning more adherents to the Lexus battle cry: “It is better to have raced than not having raced at all.” Race rhyming with raise is what clinches it, though.
Raise glasses, I mean. Raising trophies come in second. Only. Ask Vernon B. Sarne.
PEE STOP Congratulations to Dr. Eugene “Yugin” J. Fernandez for winning four major awards in the recent Bump & Grind Car Show in Vista Mall, San Fernando City, Pampanga. His 1992 Toyota Corolla XL4 (EE90), originally owned by his older brother Jojo (an engineer) won for Best in Paint, Best Detailed Car, Best Sedan and Best 1990s Car. Yugin is the youngest son of Dante and Ching Fernandez of Roxas City and Calauag, Quezon, who now reside in SSS Village, Marikina City. Cheers, Yugin!