Tight security, wet weather welcome PH teamBy Tessa R. Salazar
Philippine Daily Inquirer
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina—Heavy rains continue to pound the city, and concerns over homeland security, brought to the fore once more by the recent Boston bombings, has “slowed down” the pre-race progress of the five-member Filipino group that arrived here Sunday.
The Cebuana Lhuillier-Petrol Racing Team had to comply with security measures prepared by the Singapore-based Monozca Foundation and its security detail in the United States.
According to a source who refused to be named, some measures included the following: No announcements to be made in any Nascar RaceEx website on the final schedule of the main race day; team members were booked for three different flights; hotels had no reservation, nor booking records, of the teams; no transport company would keep any record of any transfers, and most conspicuous of all, only around 2,000 invited spectators could witness the race at the 250,000-seat Charlotte Motorspeedway.
The five Filipinos competing in their first-ever Nascar race are Carlos Anton, a 6-time hill-climb champion, Stefano Marcelo, a Europe-trained karting champion, and a ladies team comprised of Formula 3 driver Gaby dela Merced, Indy Lights-trained Michelle Bumgarner, and endurance racer Pia Boren.
As of press time, the team practiced Nascar Diversity Program’s Rev Racing simulators. Rev Racing general manager Derik Crotts said recent Nascar champions honed their skills on these simulators.
The team will be practicing on the Charlotte Motor Speedway anytime now.
P15M for the PH team
The Philippine team’s trip to Charlotte was made possible with the P15-million fund raised by private sponsors.
The security measures included drastically trimming the number of personnel on the ground. Only one production crew for the event was contracted, and only two members of the media were allowed to cover for every team. The Philippine team’s national jackets were only allowed to be worn from the Los Angeles International Airport to Charlotte.
At midnight of Sunday going into Monday, two burly men (reportedly FBI agents) briefed Nascar RaceEx committee chair Paul Monozca at the hotel lobby on the conduct of the race program the next day
Monozca, through the Monozca Foundation, formed The Spirit Program, which committed to foot half the budget of the Philippine team. It also assisted in soliciting funds in the region, making it possible for the Philippine team to compete here.
No names were made available by the committee on the arrival of some VIPs, but sources did mention the appearance of “two American billionaires who are key supporters of the foundation’s programs.”
“In this day when any inspirational program is targeted by negative forces, our very own Philippine team experienced what it means to be well taken care of,” said a source who refused to be identified.
Amidst tighter security, Filipinos living and working in the United States still managed to get up close and personal with their racing idols to have pictures taken with them.
To compete globally
“We want Filipino men and women athletes to compete globally, to be out there to fly the flag. It doesn’t matter if they win or not. What matters is they were there,” said Monozca.
The five Filipinos were selected by a group of Philippine motorsports philanthropists led by The Spirit Program.The privately funded Spirit program, launched in 2010, advocates the international education, training and competition of athletes. Since its inception, it has acquired ownership in the American Basketball Association (www.abagloballeague.com), the Nascar RaceEX World Circuit in the United States and the Formula Green Electric Racing Circuit in Europe. It also has interests in a European soccer school, a Florida-based Polo championship series, and Asia’s first Sports University in Singapore integrating a massive television content platform.