Fortify your upper-body strength: Battle tough terrain in 4X4s
Being adept at handling a 4x4 vehicle while off-raod will enhance your driving skills and help you become a safer driver, says Paulo Subido of Top Gear Philippines. Tonton Dungca

I got started in 4X4 racing, specifically in local and regional competitions, because my father also competed in the races. I was just 16 years old. I originally wanted to get into drag racing, but my father didn’t allow me to do so because he found it too dangerous. I realized that since our family was in the 4x4 business, it made sense to follow in his footsteps.

My first race was in a stock Jeep, which I had to drive all the way to Batangas so I could finally satisfy my desire to compete. As luck would have it, I finished second. That was more than enough to fire up my passion for the sport. I decided to build my own rig immediately after, and I’ve been competing in 4x4 races ever since. It’s been 17 years.

Heading into the last race of the NASFOR Extreme Off-Road Challenge’s 2012 season, I was leading the Driver of the Year standings. Bad luck and pressure, however, cost me the top plum. Fighting for the title was difficult for several reasons. You won’t feel pressured early in the season. And unless you’ve built an insurmountable lead over your closest rival going into the final two races, nothing is ever a sure win.

I now compete in the 2014 Maxxis 4x4 Cup Extreme Off-Road Challenge, which has been organized by the National Association of Filipino Off-Roaders since a couple of years ago. In 2013, during only my second season in the series, I was honored with the Driver of the Year award. My title defense this 2014 is off to a good start—I won the first leg in Cebu last January.

If you’re serious about 4x4 racing, traveling to Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao to compete is definitely a privilege. Our team alone, the Kapampangan Racing Team, is composed of nine competitors; it is currently the biggest team in the series. Just imagine the logistics of transporting nine rigs and their drivers, crew members, and support teams.

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People think extreme 4x4 racing is dangerous, but it’s not. As long as you have a helmet and a 4-point seatbelt, and you remember to keep your arms on the steering wheel when you roll over, you’ll be fine.

Following a serious fitness regimen is not a requirement. If you attend a 4x4 race, you’ll see that the participating drivers are of different ages and body types. That said, having considerable upper-body strength is essential because you’re practically wrestling your rig through tough terrain. A toned core and astrong neck are also important, especially when your rig rolls on its side or turns upsidedown, and you get stuck in that position for minutes.

I have four children—three daughters and a son who’s only eight months old. When my son grows up and decides to take up 4x4 racing, I won’t get in his way. That was how it was between me and my dad. I hope my son will also follow my lead in the future.

 

FIRST STEPS INTO 4X4 RACING

Money matters. You need to have the capacity to see your passion through. Admittedly, 4x4 racing is an expensive sport, so if you plan to compete in it, you have to be ready to spend for it. Also, you can’t expect to win from the very start, so you have to practice and keep pushing yourself.

Stay focused. You must be mentally sharp during the race. There are so many distractions that could ruin your drive: the crowd that’s sometimes just a few feet away from you, and the cold mud splashing on your body and head. You have to learn to tune these out.

Teamwork is essential. You can’t just get away off the street. Your navigator, the one who will guide you if the turn is too tight or take charge of winching duties if you get stuck, is someone you should really, really trust.

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Best rig wins. You have to build the best rig you can right off the bat. Once you’ve done that, then it’s simply a matter of maintaining it in between events.

 

Follow the writer on Twitter: @MensHealthPh