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Skid Marks

Motorsports at the crossroads

SO ONCE again, Johnny Tan and his Clark International Speedway organization are in a testy situation, albeit smaller than the untimely death of two-wheeled racer Maico Buncio.

I was told that some drag racers competing in the fourth round of the Petron-sponsored National Drag Racing Championship Series were disqualified by series organizers, steward and track management for not having the “proper safety equipment.”

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The catch is that the equipment MUST be supplied exclusively by Kilton Motors.

Up until the Buncio incident, racers were allowed to compete even without meeting the explicit standards for safety equipment.

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Race organizers say that because of the Buncio case, they are now forced to implement the rules much more strictly than before. The racers, however, counter thatcars must compete using M&H tires, a particular motorsports tire brand distributed by Kilton Motors exclusively in the Philippines.

Now everyone is in an uproar and at this point, it doesn’t seem clear as to how things will turn out.

But stepping back and you do see the merits of both contending parties.

Even before I started writing, I frequented Tan’s other track, Batangas Racing Circuit, and drove cars on the Carmona Karting Track in Cavite, also owned by Tan.

I’ve also purchased some equipment from Kilton Motors, the distributor for Sparco race suits, shoes, gloves, Shoei helmets and other high-performance motorsports equipment when I raced in the first Hill-Climb Series back in 2007.

Motorsports has become more and more expensive. If we really want to stage and participate in a world-class motorsports event, competitors should be reading the rulebook more closely to make their cars more compliant.

Using flame retardant equipment, installing roll-cages, a fire extinguisher present and sealed battery boxes which can prevent an electrical short and cause a chemical fire (far more difficult to douse and requires Halon-type fire extinguishers suitable for oil and chemical fires).

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The problem is resources. Amateur racers will want to spend their cash on modifications which will make them go faster.

And therein lies the problem. Only the very wealthy individuals will be able to be compliant and compete if this truly were to be the case.

On the other hand, we also need a proper, safe and FIA-compliant venue to hold motorsports events if we want to complete in a world-class manner. Batangas Racing Circuit and Clark International Speedway are the only true proper race tracks, even if it’s a far cry from race tracks such as Fuji International Speedway, Sepang Circuit and the Shanghai International Circuit, all three having been designed and redesigned by Herman Tilke.

But our tracks are better than having none at all, and worse, allowing the proliferation of racing in the street. While I personally often find myself speeding and overspeeding on public roads (who hasn’t anyway?), overspeeding and racing on public roads are two very different things.

When you’re simply overspeeding, you don’t find pressure to sustain or surpass a certain speed if road conditions do not allow. But the heat of the competition seems, to many people, to suffer from red mist i.e. the single-minded focus to simply beat the car he/she is racing against and forget everything else.

I’m not saying overspeeding is ok, but rather, street-racing, which is what we all want to avoid, is what poses to be the real danger, the real menace on the road to other motorists and even pedestrians.

I think this issue with the series organizers and racers can be settled if: Johnny Tan/Kilton Motors offers a special discount/subsidy or even loan-out safety equipment to racers who do not have the proper safety equipment, while racers in exchange pledge to run in all the series legs in exchange for these special marked-down safety gear to ensure that both sides are happy, and that the investment in safety equipment is justified.

In the US, major car manufacturers such as Mazda give a cash supplement to any amateur racer who competes and wins, or at least finishes in the podiums regularly, as a means of simple sponsorship. Perhaps the local car manufacturers can do the same? That’s another way we can help amateur racers and prevent further street racing.

Nobody races for free, it will always involve cost. But the cost should be managed, otherwise, we will end up endangering not just ourselves, but other people as well. I feel for the racers, many of them are my good friends, people I give my moral support, well-wishes and kind words to.

As a car guy, many of these racers are my local heroes as well. Let’s keep the flame of enthusiasm alive and keep these guys racing on the track rather than on the streets.

But truth to tell, the M&H tire issue bothers me.

I hope this isn’t true, because it makes Tan look simply very greedy, rather than simply being a businessman helping to keep the flame of automotive passion alive.

For comments, e-mail botchilah@yahoo.com.

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TAGS: Motoring, Motorsports, Racing
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