I should’ve sat down to write this long ago, but I somehow couldn’t – here goes nothing.
Batangas is known as a province filled with folding knives (balisong), loming Batangas (fat noodles with beer and other pieces of meat), the beaches of Nasugbu and Laiya and a host of other things. Car guys know it mostly for a single landmark – the famed Batangas Racing Circuit. With it’s long straight, sweeping and banked corners, it had become a famous gathering place for club trackdays, and competitive motoring events that includes several dates of the Philippine Touring Car Championship.
It was June 2012, and for our club’s monthly 99th monthly GEB (Grand Eye Ball) it was decided that we will go down to the Batangas Racing Circuit for a combined family / track day. Having known that I can drive Aska to the track, put in laps, and come back home, I immediately decided to go ahead with it. We didn’t exactly do anything special for this particular trackday since most of the maintenance upkeep was done the previous April for the 1st Yokohama Invitational Track Day.
I didn’t really have that much cash on hand to get a strut bar (which was my foremost plan), camber plates (to counter the understeer), racing seats and a 5 point harness. The only stuff I did for this particular trackday was to change the oil, coolant, re-tighten stuff and move the fuel pump to the rear.
The main difference on this one was that on the Yokohama Trackday, there were only 5 of us who signed up, and were selected to represent our club, which meant that there were only 5 of us driving to the venue, and mostly us talking to each other until we moved to the different paddocks to meet with other clubs. On this particular outing, we pretty much knew everyone and one of the best things about it is that Aska will no longer be the lone old school sled in the pack. The MLPH OS (Old School) Crew was in attendance in what we consider was a considerable force, fielding 4 regular MLPH cars, which included the famed hoon tuned Red Devil Box (although he ran more with the ACE stead) and a recurring A17x Lancer driven by one of our friends from Marikina. The other good thing about this was that we got our own paddocks, that had doors and a roof – the spot we got in CIS was a mostly unfinished structure that smelled of cured cement. Supporting us was a bunch of our other old schooler friends, which included a duo of brothers and their A72 1st gen Lancer coupe (Bar type) who snuck out of the house, supposedly on errands, from Marikina to follow us, and watch the show. There was complete attendance from all the crews involved, we even had guests from ACE (Atenean Car Enthusiasts) and dem Ozawa JDM boys.
We had an uneventful meetup at 5am down at Shell – BASS, and slowly, one by one the cars started arriving. My car was still festooned with livery from the previous trackday, and she was washed the night before, making her look sparkly and clean. I found out painfully that it wouldn’t be a short drive out to Batangas. The last time, we took 45 minutes from Balintawak right into CIS itself. A quick look at my guestimates revealed that CIS was about 80 kms from Manila, and BRC is a whopping a 120 kms from Manila, which was made agonizingly longer because of detours taken due to ongoing road repairs. We left Shell BASS at around 6am to meet the rest of our contingent and the Ozawa JDM guys at Petron Southwoods. We’d hardly been in Petron for 5 minutes when a Toyota Corona ST191 came swooping in sidefuckingways into an empty parking slot, it was only after that I found out that it was driven by then budding drift driver Mark Bernardo. A quick meal in Jolibee, and stocking of provisions (water, foodstuff as we were told the venue was far from the main road) and we were off blasting along SLEX, into the STAR Tollway. The trip lasted maybe 3 hours-ish, pretty fast considering we slowed down many times due to busted roads – imagine a procession of lowered vehicles making their way, and crawling less than a snail’s pace because of pot holes and rocks strewn about.
When we finally got to BRC, the first order of business was to rest up and get to our assigned spot in the docks. One of my good friends, Mark (now a competitive driver in the Shell Helix National Slalom) was very, very eager to test his Lancer’s set up, but as is standard procedure, there was a driver’s briefing on what and what not to do, when and where to ditch, how to fuck up (without fucking people up) and checking out the track layout. The pretty serious briefing turned into a comedy act since we had Ramon Bautista (oh, he’s an MLPH member) with us, and his incessant “Let’s drugs!” while pointing to the main straight, with everyone guffawing at the whole exchange.
Here is a drawn overhead map of the circuit
**He meant “Let’s go drag racing”.
Then of course, there was the actual on track orientation with a parade around the whole thing (we did the full course) at a slow, ceremonial pace to feel the place. Of course, there was no ceremonial pace – pretty much everyone gunned it for most, if not the whole time.
After we got back to the docks, we let our engines cool down, and get some needed hydration. The place was pretty hot, and humid that even in the shade you will be sweating buckets. When our engines cooled enough, it was time to really gun it on track. Mark was already about to explode with excitement to test his set-up, Leo was also dying to see how his car will perform, from a sounds only show car champ into a track car, and me trying to see how a stock 4G33 with a 4-speed will perform against 4G33 running cam 6, and fed by Weber 40s, driving a 5-speed transmission, against another stock 4G32 driving a 5-speed transmission.
We had a whopping good time with it!
By the second lap though, Mark and I wanted to seriously up our pace so we left Leo and Jason behind to slug it out between our two Lancers. There was a very obvious disparity in terms of acceleration, he very easily left me while exiting the corners. With more push behind him, he also had the upper hand in terms of top speed. I cannot even hope to match him during braking as I run drums in the back, and he already has a 4-wheel disc brake set with a 4.2 diff. However, I pushed so hard to catch him on the corners, that I was understeering quite a lot, and on one of the corners, dived in too fast into the apex between the 8th and 9th right hand corners. I understeered into the corner, and then suddenly the rear broke out and I lost traction – everywhere, for a fleeting moment. During that time,I felt the rear jump (I’m not making this up, it totally jumped) and skip over a portion of the track. There was a popping sound that I thought something had come loose in the back. I counter steered some, and got Aska pointing the right way. Sensing something was wrong, I cooled down around the track then made my way back to the docks.
My old man and I looked under the car to check for any signs of damage, the left rear specifically, and found a pool of liquid that had dripped from the brakes, I hurriedly removed the wheel, and the brake drum, and found liquid coming out from the axle’s bearing and seal! I thought I was fucking screwed, so we made the painful decision to pack it up and head home, the logic being that if we ever run into trouble, our friends would still be on the way back in the afternoon to catch up to us for help.
We drove back to Manila at a very reduced pace, in the middle of a thunderstorm. When I checked the seal after a few days, there was nothing coming out, nothing was loose, nothing was damaged.
It remains a mystery what exactly happened that day.
So on a parting note, I enjoyed my experience in BRC, even for a brief period of time. I first saw it on TV in 1995 at a local motoring show. I’d often heard of it from the late Maico Buncio, who often raced there, and was also where he was tagged as the fastest man in the country. However, BRC’s terrain, and appearance is rough compared to CIS (Clark International Speedway). The former had rough patches of pavement, and an uneven surface. The latter has a smooth surface all over. It’s not really surprising though as CIS is relatively new, and BRC had been around since around the time SIR (Subic International Raceway) opened.
Would I come back here again?
You can count on it. Now, if I can just get a driver to ferry me to the circuit.