RACE REPORTS

2002 Asian Formula Challenge 1st Leg

2002 Asian Formula Challenge 1st Leg image

Text: Brent Co / Photos: Brent Co | posted June 08, 2002 00:00

Silverio sweeps season opener

With the launching of the Asian Formula Challenge (AFC) held just days before, people were definitely psyched up for a weekend of pure racing fun. The AFC is a continuation and update of last year's AF3 Championship. But this time, the addition of the Asian Formula Renault series ensures that a more tightly packed grid andstiff competition.

Qualifying and time trials proved to be a disaster for some of the teams and drivers. Frenchman Philippe Descombes, himself a very talented driver, was forced to withdraw from the race due to mechanical problems. "I felt great coming into this weekend, I had learned the track and was making times comparable with Goddard without being able to push the car. I am still highly motivated to win this year; we will either rebuild the engine or update my car after which I will be back to compete strongly next month in Zhuhai for rounds 3 & 4".

JP Tuason of TRP Team Oxygen wasn't even able to get his engine started. A problem with the electronic management system meant that Tuason would be out for the weekend. Philip Alvendia of Kart 1 Racing came down sick and had to lend his car to Korean Dong Wok Lee because the latter's F3 vehicle had ignition problems prior to the race.

Mark Goddard, of Castrol-Team was able to take pole position from defending champion Jojo Silverio of Tom's Zed. In third position was Pepon Marave of the Shell Racing Team. Occupying fourth was the very impressive Chinese driver Franky Cheng of FRD Motorsports, campaigning in the Formula Renault category. Enzo Pastor, the youngest Filipino Formula driver was at fifth while HK's Paul Chan was at 6th place driving an F3 car.

The drivers to watch in Formula 3 were defending champion Jojo Silverio and the veteran racer Mark Goddard. Everyone knows that the action will be close. The two frontrunners as well as the rest of the grid will be battling it out till the end. Meanwhile in Formula Renault, top qualifiers Franky Cheng and Enzo Pastor will be battling it out themselves.

As the green lights turned on, polesitter Mark Goddard of Castrol-Team Goddard immediately pulled a quick start, leading the pack, hounded by Silverio from laps one to three and Marave hot on his heels. Sometime during the early laps of the race, Marave spun out but was able to recover and keep the engine running.

In lap 4, Goddard briefly lost momentum which enabled Silverio to pass him down the straight, after which Goddard took the lead back a few corners later with a spectacular move. While slicing his was back through the field after a spinout at the opening lap, Shell Racing's Pepon Marave spun on the exit of the sweeper on lap 5 due to a damaged rear wing from his spinout earlier and hit the tire barrier where could not extricate himself.

A few moments later, as Goddard was coming out of that same slippery corner, he also spun out; the rear of his car hitting the rear of Marave. Marshals, race officials, and an ambulance quickly rushed to the scene. It seemed that the accident was real bad. The race was stopped to allow the organizers a chance to assess just how bad the incident was. The incident forced the Clerk of the Course Gabby Intengan to bring out the red flag to momentarily stop the race.

Thankfully, both drivers emerged with no major injuries. Goddard was in a stretcher (for good measure) while Marave, suffered a whiplash was wearing a neckbrace and obviously twitching in pain, was assisted to the pits. After a few hours, both drivers seemed to be doing fine, walking around from one suite to the other. But it seems that neither can remember what exactly happened and how they lost control of their respective cars. Many theories arised, some said that that portion of the track was really slippery while others suggested that Goddard might have been surprised to see Marave's car parked at the side as he was coming out of the corner, therefore losing control of his own F3 vehicle.

Whatever the reason may be, most people seemed to agree that it was a racing incident, it was unavoidable. The damage sustained by the cars were mostly concentrated in the rear, but seeing those precious F3 machines in that condition was still very hard to bear. "I can't quite remember anything, all I can recall is I spun out and crashed," said Goddard when we asked him about the accident.

At the restart, Silverio occupied the pole position left vacant by Goddard. Another Filipino driver Richard Joson was at second, driving a Dallara/Mugen Honda for JF3 Racing. Immediately from the start, Silverio grabbed a commanding lead and never let go. He crossed the finished line at first with Joson second and Dong Wok Lee (his first time to race in the Philippines) at third.

The restart went problem free for the leaders as the only notable incident was when Vertex Motorsports' Paul Chan was given a warning flag for knocking wheels with E-Rain driver Dong Wok Lee.

In the Formula Renault division, Franky Cheng of FRD Motorsports dominated his category finishing second overall in the combined grid. Lone Filipino driver in Formula Renault Enzo Pastor of Team T.E.C. came in just around 10 seconds behind Cheng. It was indeed an impressive drive for Enzo as it was his maiden Formula Renault race. Rounding out the Formula Renault Podium was HK driver Kenny Chun, also of FRD Motorsports.

In the second race, Jojo Silverio once again proved his skill as he lead the race from start to finish. But this time it was ace Hong Kong driver Paul Chan in second while Richard Joson of Denso JF3 Racing settled for third. Despite a good performance by Joson, mechanical problems due to the disconnection of one of his high-tension wires caused him to drop to third while we was trying to tail Silverio. Paul Chan eventually overtook Joson.

This race wasn't spared from it's share of mishaps. Korean Dong Wok Lee had a close encounter with the gravel traps after spinning out. A number of Formula Renault and Formula Toyota cars also spun out, but thankfully, no major accident happened. The Formula Renault results were exactly the same as the first race with Franky Cheng at first, local driver Enzo Pastor in second, and Kenny Chun in third.