Motor racing. There are many who view the act of going round in circles at speed quite preposterous.
Some think that along with the risk of putting one’s life on the line, it’s even more silly that you have to pay to do it. The biggest misconception about racing, at any level, is the amount of dedication and commitment put into it, not just by the drivers, but by everyone involved. What we see happening in a racetrack is no more than the size of bacteria in relation to just how many people and companies are really involved with what’s unfolding before our eyes.
Obviously, racing as a sport has a lot more variables than the likes of basketball or even tennis. If you were born a genetic demigod and you decided one day that you’d like to be the next Lebron James, your chances of making it are far better than if you had said, Fernando Alonso. I’m not taking away anything from basketball players, as I am certain that the level at which they compete in professionally, is a completely different ball game. Pun intended.
However, in motor racing, being the best skilled driver doesn’t always guarantee a race seat or a future in the sport. As a matter of fact, the supreme guarantee for such, is an unlimited war chest. It would take me a year to explain why, but in a nutshell - before you can showcase your skill, you must first have the equipment.
And doing that isn’t as simple as walking into a talent show and borrowing someone else’s guitar. Without the equipment, all you have is your word - and we all know that doesn’t count for much these days. There’s so much more to racing than the act of driving a car really quick. There’s the politics, the drama, the budget, and have I mentioned the politics?
Toyota Gazoo Racing.
Racing at the highest level like Formula 1 is plagued by drivers that have paid their way into a seat, a team’s influence with the sport’s governing body, and pure Benjamin talk. This is why when you ask most of the pure drivers in higher echelons of motor sport, they all look back at karting and their grassroots racing as the most fun times in their career. Racing was simple. It was about honorable competition, team camaraderie, and pure race craft. Today, the higher categories of motor sport have become a soap opera for men.
The stakes are all too high, the politics has grabbed the sport by the nuts, and this has had a profound domino effect in motorsports at the grassroots level. Let’s not look too far. In our country, wherein we have had a fair share of brilliant drivers, motor sport seems to be a thing of the past. It has gotten way too expensive and the lack of support by the government has done it no favors. There’s an absence in karting, GT races, and even Formula cars. It seems like street racing is now the way to go, which is disastrous unless your life’s ambition is to be called a Sweet Potato. A Kamote.
Thankfully, Toyota Motors Philippines’ brilliant idea of running a proper grassroots racing competition called the Vios Cup has brought back the idea of motorsports back into the minds and the hearts of Filipinos. From a business standpoint, it’s the perfect marketing scheme too. They turned their blandest taxi in the lineup into a full-blown lightweight race car, opening an exciting way to look at a Vios. Before we get carried away here, the Vios in its most hardcore lightweight state is far from being called quick.
This is a barebones example of simply getting rid of what isn’t needed in order to save weight and have it corner a little better. In truth, grassroots racing with modest power outputs are more difficult races to win for the game is about consistency rather than sheer aggression. It’s about driving cleanly, patiently, and planning passes way before you execute them. It’s about momentum. With less power, making mistakes costs a lot more. It’s quite interesting, really.
"Like the Vios Cup, the 86 proves to thrill."
All of this low output and barebones fun brings me squarely to the car I’ve chosen to drive up to Clark International Speedway, the bewitching Toyota 86. I am often asked what I do for a living since I’ve openly said that Opus Macchina, for the moment, is a pure passion project. I spearhead marketing and business development for a boutique creative studio called, OTT.
It’s our mother company, which partly owns Opus Macchina. We are in the media solutions business and one of the things we do is live-stream the Vios Cup, so that many people who can’t make the trek to Clark can watch the race in real time via Facebook live. Usually, we arrive a day before the event to test our equipment with Toyota’s other suppliers and then we have the day to ourselves. Ah, the fun stuff.
Some of you may wonder why I’ve chosen a tiny, stiff, and relatively uncomfortable sports car to drive to Clark. Well, that’s because apart from those downsides, there is a massive upside in that it is just ridiculous unadulterated fun. The limit of adhesion is so kind, you can push the boundaries to your heart’s desire.
It’s like having sex without a condom, but being sure that you won’t have gonorrhoea tomorrow - and that no one will be calling you ‘dad’ in the next year or so. I have driven cars much, much faster than this, for sure - but not all of them as exciting. This car on a straight line doesn’t do much. It’s in the corners and twisty roads that it comes to its own.
The 86 is a strong argument that one does not need to pay stratospheric amounts of money for a fantastic sports car. The seating position is near perfect at my height, so I can already assume that if you are shorter than I am, it’s right on the money. There’s also something so enchanting with rowing through the gears and manually rev-matching on the downshifts without any poseur auto-blipping assistance.
The gearbox isn’t silky smooth like what you find in Honda’s Civic Type R. It is however, very raw, and I appreciate it. One of the best things about it though, is how they’ve managed to decrease the speed at which you can get the tail out and slip into long juvenile drifts. Going 200 km/h in this car feels like 300, just because the engine is screaming at the top of its lungs. It is hugely entertaining and immensely satisfying.
Heart of a boxer.
Like the Vios Cup, the 86 proves to thrill. It doesn’t capitalise on sheer speed or exoticness to get the job done. What it does brilliantly is it puts the driver at the center of the experience amidst the tech fest of computer dominated go-faster solutions. The amount of fun and the level of performance you can extract from the car purely lies on the driver - a very reminiscent trait to pure grassroots racing.
Our countrymen deserve another shot at rekindling a love for motorsports, because, well - racing is life. Whether you are hooning around in the 86 or watching gladiators battle it out at the Vios Cup, the only certainty is that we are all brought together by the simple love for driving. And as far as driving pleasure goes, the 86 is right up there with the best of them. Kudos to you, Toyota Motor Philippines!
The rebirth of Philippine motorsports.