On the road
Redefining the Subaru Impreza ChallengeBy Aida Sevilla Mendoza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Every time an automobile undergoes a revamp with new sheet metal and new features, it is redefined. Motor Image, the exclusive distributor of Subaru in Asia, introduced two redefinitions last Saturday: the all-new, fourth-generation Impreza and the fifth Manila leg qualifier of the Subaru Impreza Challenge, Singapore’s endurance competition.
It was the first time that Motor Image launched the latest iteration of the Impreza on the same day and at the same venue as the Challenge. Holding two major events in one place requires more space, said Mike Luyun, the newly appointed general manager of Motor Image Pilipinas Inc., so instead of Eastwood, the venue of the Challenge in the previous two years, they chose the activity area of Bonifacio High Street in BGC (Bonifacio Global City), Taguig.
Five brand new Imprezas were parked inside an outdoor fenced section of the activity area for the Challenge. Luyun, who has been with Motor Image Pilipinas ever since its establishment in Manila, said that of the 110 applicants who signed up to join, 94 showed up on the day of the Challenge.
Left standing. The Subaru Impreza Challenge requires participants to place their right palm on a specific, marked area of the car starting at 9:30 a.m. up to the time that only 10 are left standing, which is usually at night. The contest officially ends at 11 p.m. The top 10 qualifiers will be flown on an all-expense paid trip (plus $300 pocket money) to Singapore, where they will compete with the qualifiers from other Asian countries in the Regional Face-Off and get the chance to win a brand-new Impreza worth P1.158 million.
Why Singapore? Because that’s where Motor Image has been headquartered since its establishment in 1986. The Motor Image Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Tan Chong International Limited, signed a contract in 2011 with Fuji Heravy Industries Ltd. to produce Subaru vehicles in Malaysia for marketing and distribution in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Since cars are right-hand drive in these Asean countries, the Subarus sold in the Philippines, where cars are left-hand drive, are imported CBU from Japan, according to Luyun. Maybe that’s why Subarus cost more in the Philippines than other Japanese brands.
In the Manila leg qualifier of the Challenge, the rules and regulations of the Regional Face Off apply. Participants cannot use sunglasses, hats, sweatbands, umbrellas or change clothes or footwear (they are given a white, collarless T-shirt uniform to wear). They can use only their right palms and are not allowed to eat, drink or rest during the Challenge, although they are granted a five-minute break every six hours during which they can use the toilet, rest, eat, drink or get a massage. Contestants who flout the rules will be disqualified after three warnings.
29 of 94.To join the Challenge, a participant must be at least 18 years old as of January 1, a Filipino passport holder and in good health as shown by a medical certificate. When I arrived at the BGC venue of the Challenge late afternoon last Saturday, 29 of the 94 participants were still standing. There were no females left. Luyun told me that one girl fainted in the morning, when the sun was blazing hot, and was rushed to the ambulance that was parked nearby.
It drizzled for a while, then rained hard, but the contestants stubbornly hung on with their right palms placed on the cars. A second round of the Castrol Challenge was subsequently announced to narrow down the field. While each contestant kept his right palm on a specified area of the car, he had to carry in his left hand a one-liter can of Castrol engine oil for 10 minutes with his left arm not moving lower than a certain angle. Seven contestants flunked the test and were disqualified. The first round of the Castrol Challenge at around noontime eliminated 19 contestants including all the remaining girls, Motor Image Pilipinas marketing executive Ann Santibanez told me.
Luyun said that the Challenge demands not only physical fitness, but also the mental conditioning, the will power and heart to win. He revealed that the four honor guards (from the Philippine National Police, Army, Air Force and Navy) who stood motionless at attention beside the late President Cory Aquino’s coffin on her funeral cortege without food, water or rest during her eight-hour funeral procession, all joined the Subaru Impreza Challenge at one time, but lost.
Top 10.When Subaru’s media guests and staff left the Challenge venue to have dinner at a Friday’s outlet within walking distance, 11 contestants were still standing. Finally, before 7 p.m., after lasting for nine hours and 14 minutes, the Top 10 were announced. The experience of six of the 10 qualifiers drives home the adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Jason Biadog finally made the Top 10 after four attempts, Julius Mark Bautista after three attempts. Two—Danilo Biadog and Alex Neblasca—joined the Challenge four times and also won four times. For Robert Ocampo, it was the second win and the second time to compete. This was Edgardo Marcos’ fourth try and second time to make the Top 10. The other winners were Filmark Bernante, Lemuel Perez, Marcelo Soriano Jr. and Philip Pajimula.
On the other hand, it isn’t true that the younger you are, the better your chances of winning. Last year, the Regional Face-Off winner who outlasted 399 other challengers by standing with his right palm on an Impreza for 75 hours and 36 minutes was 42-year-old Chiong Kiat Chi of Singapore. This year, will a “try, try again” Filipino bring home the Subaru Impreza Challenge’s grand prize? Watch out for it.
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