A CHANCE to represent the country in an international racing competition is at stake in the three-leg 2014 Toyota Vios Cup, which starts this weekend at the Clark International Speedway.
A total of 19 riders are seeing action in the centerpiece race, while five each are participating in the celebrity and media categories, respectively, of the biggest motoring festival this year slated on May 24.
Billy Billano, manager of the Tuason Racing School, said organizers of the meet are now in talks with Japan or Thailand about the champion of the Philippine series participating in a Vios Cup series in either country as part of the winner’s incentive, aside from the cash prizes and a brand-new stock Vios.
“We’re finalizing with our counterparts in other Asian countries for the winner of the race to have a chance to drive in the Toyota Vios Cup in other countries may be later this year,” said Billano during Tuesday’s weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at Shakey’s Malate.
Young star Rhian Ramos and model-television host Phoem Barranda accompanied Billano in the session presented by Shakey’s, Accel, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor). The two are competing in the celebrity class along with Sam YG, Fabio Ide, and Jinno Rufino.
Barranda started racing nine years ago and emerged champion of the celebrity division during the promotional race of the meet held last January.
“I really like racing. I’ve competed in other celebrity races before because I wanted to show that this sport is not just for the guys,” said Barranda, lovely in her all-white blouse. “Once you’re inside the race track, walang babae at walang lalaki na.”
Unlike Barranda, Ramos is just getting her feet wet as far as racing is concerned.
Initially, she said driving in a race track was just among the things in her bucket list, but eventually learned to love the sport when the Kapuso actress saw action during the Vios Cup promotional event.
“Practicing is one thing, participating is another,” said the actress. “But once I experienced `yung race mismo, I fell in love with it na.”
Among those competing in the centerpiece race include Dominic Ochoa, Charlie Cojuangco, Basti Escalante, Luis Gono, Inaki Araneta, among others.
Billano, who trained abroad and is a racing and defensive driving teacher, stressed that no pro racers are allowed to compete, adding, “aspiring drivers lang talaga. Hindi pa dapat nananalo ng podium.”
At the same time, novice riders need to attend either the Tuason or Toyota Racing School, otherwise, they won’t be allowed to race, according to Billano.
“That’s one thing we do at Tuason Racing School and that is to promote safe motorsports in the country," said the race official, who bared Ramos only learned to drive a manual car after attending the famed race school.
At the same time, he said the race is out to improve the image of Toyota Vios that has been embedded in the public’s eye.
“Let’s face it, ang image ng Vios is a taxi,” said Billano. “But I tell you, it’s a very tough (car). That’s why we want to show the people it can handle pressure. From being a taxi to a race car is no easy feat.”