Thursday, July 22, 2010
As the race progressed, the only way we were able to monitor how the other racers are doing was through hourly updates at WAVE 89.1. When our car radio signal became weak on certain areas, Paolo’s Manila-based sister kept us abreast with the radio updates via text messages.
It was there that we learned that Team Lighthouse Subaru, who breezed past us and other cars at the North Luzon Expressway misread the map, missed a crucial turn and ended up in Dinalupihan. By the time they turned back and barely made it to the checkpoint, almost two hours have elapsed and they just decided to bow out of the race and went straight to Subic.
They weren’t the only ones who had a hard time understanding the assigned routes. It took our own team a while to figure out the first checkpoint in San Fernando, Pampanga, which was only marked Essels and only by asking residents in the area were we able to figure out that Essels was actually a supermarket.
We made it to the first checkpoint in 30th place out of the 35 racers. As we made it to the succeeding checkpoints, we were encouraged by the fact that not only did we improve our standing at every stop, we were also aware of the difficulties the other racers were facing. Thanks to the updates of Paolo’s sister, we learned that some got momentarily lost while others had the expected car troubles.
Unlike those who were test driving vehicles for the first time (probably not a good idea for a lengthy race like this to begin with) the kid’s familiarity with his everyday car served our team in good stead. It also helped that his modifications turned out to be spot-on.
“The rims and the suspension are some of the factors as to why we did not end up with flat tires while negotiating the bad roads because putting race specs are not intended for rough roads, they are only used for flat smooth surface race tracks,” Paolo points out.
As a passenger, I would have loved to stop at certain points for some photo ops and maybe even for some pasalubong items (after all, my intention was to merely cover the race) particularly in Baguio, one of my favorite places in the country.
But I could see from the fire in Paolo’s eyes that he intends to finish this race in a respectable manner at the very least especially when our standing kept improving with every checkpoint. From 30th place, we climbed back to 28th, then 21st, 16th, 11th and by the time we made it to San Fernando, La Union for the mandatory one-hour rest, we were already in ninth place.
As the race came down to the homestretch, we learned that Team P-1 Motorsports of driver JP Cariño and navigator Angelo Tambo, who led most of the way actually ran out of gas in the middle of the long and winding SCTEX. The grinding halt came just when the TIPO Gate (exit to Subic Bay Freeport) was already within their sight. They didn’t notice they busted their gas tank back in Checkpoint 9 in Tarlac. Team DKC of Arnel Carlos and Nino Sarte passed them by 20 minutes later.
As for us, we continued our progress as we finished 4th, 3rd and 2nd at the remaining checkpoints. By the time we entered Subic, we were already in a neck and neck pace with Team DKC. We somehow managed to shake them off shortly after entering Olongapo and yes, finished first ahead of everybody else.
We still lost the race, though. Maybe because Eslao is not an experienced circuit racer (many of the participants weren’t) or maybe because of his lack of familiarity with the time control concept (he was yet to be born when the last race of this type was held in the country), our team actually checked in early at the San Fernando, La Union pit stop that we were meted a stiff penalty equivalent to one hour and 15 minutes.
While that would suggest or imply that we did not follow traffic rules and was running faster than we were supposed to, the same could be said for the other racers who arrived earlier at that checkpoint, only they were smart enough not to “officially” check-in. Since that was allowed, I personally thought it defeats the purpose of the race’s whole safety first objective. Oh, well.
With an official time of 11 hours and 26 minutes with minimal or no penalties at all, Team DKC, who arrived second at the finish line, ran a clean race and won it all, including the P50,000 cash prize plus M-150 Energy Drink products, a special edition jacket and more importantly, bragging rights as the very first winner of M-150 Unleashed race.
“Our struggles included our car breaking down during the early part of the race going to the second check point at Bamban,” says Nino Sarte of Team DKC. “We had a busted CV boot resulting to the overheating of CV joint and busted axle. Despite all the troubles we still managed to finish the race at Subic.”
All told, it was a successfully-staged race and was exciting enough to merit a clamor for a similar race this year. Just like The Cannonball Run, this is one movie that deserves a sequel and talks of an even bigger M-150 Unleashed! (Southern Adventure, perhaps?) event have already made the rounds of the racing community.
As for Paolo Eslao, who by the way is based in the South, he is still very happy with how our team fared overall. “Well, we did finish the race,” he smilingly says with a sense of fulfillment. “With no accidents or mishaps whatsoever, we already achieved a great feat considering how hard we drove. Official or not, I think we owned them all.”
Indeed we did. Indeed we did.