Text: Ramon Pedrosa / Photos: Ryam Yap | posted April 02, 2005 20:00
Damosa... the very mention of the name gives anxiety attacks to the uninitiated. At its 7th running this year, the attraction of the place is almost mythical. Seasoned players of this sport usually have two opinions regarding the track. One is that the course is bound to leave behind parts of their meticulously-prepared vehicles as they try to overcome the very cleverly designed and natural terrain-mimicking obstacles while the others see it as a challenge to their driving skill and cognitive faculties. The stomping ground of 4 Wheelers Davao with their president, Brian Toh, the Damosa track, designed by Erwin Gumban for almost seven years already, has everything a modern race track has: a cordoned-off and well-secured race track, first and foremost; powerful outdoor floodlights; bleachers area for the spectators and participants alike as well as numerous vantage points to observe the whole goings-on; their own grandstand and stage for awards presentation; clean restrooms for both male and female with showers to boot; a fully functional and air-conditioned secretariat and club office with parking for all including the numerous trailers other clubs used for their race vehicle's transport. Thus the stage was set for an action-filled and exciting race weekend.
According to Erwin Gumban, the track designer everything that is found in the track can be found in all of the trails and trips he has done in the hills and mountains of Mindanao. One of the obstacles I noted was a deeply rutted uphill portion so very similar to the shortcut one takes coming from Ka Vergel's place to tabletop but this time the direction would be downhill. Another eye-catching one is the watiwati, a sharp, double and a half, S-shaped rut where a peculiar technique is needed to get through that portion in good time or else you'd get stuck there and DNF for sure.
On race day, I was tasked to be the official timer of Track A which had three sets of mudpits but I would not like to go into details so the Damosa track would still be the mysterious and controversial track to the ones who have never set eyes on her. Roger Peyra of the Bicol Off-Road Club initially set the fastest time of 2 minutes and 23 seconds but was later surpassed by fellow team mate Jojo Prieto with a time of 2 minutes 13 seconds. It turned out that Track A was the easier track because by the time we were almost a third done with the first batch of 23 participants; Track B still had to produce a finisher.
First to run on Track B was Richard of MORI who was making excellent time but had a mishap on the downhill portion of the course I mentioned earlier. A cracked starter ended his run as he was unable to restart Lopro. Richard's acrobatics was later duplicated by Jeremie Lo of Bicol but he was able to keep his engine running despite the roll he did but alas, he too ended in a DNF. Concon Fernando had the fastest time in Track B in his hybrid Suzuki with 4 minutes and 35 seconds while Timtom Gempesaw came in with a 05:18. The runs for Track B had to be halted as dinner was served at 7 and since everyone had a bellyful of roasted calf among other gastronomical goodies, the continuation of the race was set for the next day.
During the break, the organizers held the Stocks on the Rocks event which was handled by Richie. I competed but was bested by several ladies and even children and teenagers. This was the first time that this event was made a best of time competition and prizes were given out to the top finishers as well. The biggest sized tire allowed was 31 inches only. I least I have the bragging rights of having raced at the Damosa Track.
Track C was a combination of Tracks A and a shortened B. The uphill and downhill part of Track B was bypassed but the top twenty participants still had their work cut out for them. Fastest time for Track C was Gempesaw's with a second over four minutes and Albert coming in 27 seconds later. Clark Go had a novel approach to negotiating a tight turn coming out of one mud pit and entering another through the disengagement of his front differential which made him pivot his 40 without having to do a two or even three-point turn. This was duly appreciated by the crowd and me especially.
One thing that I want to point out is that the races in the South are, at least in my opinion and in the ones I have attended, a cut above the rest because they hardly, if ever, use buntings. There, the tracks are laid out as logical as possible but with the intent of keeping the racers inside the course. Buntings are used only for directional aids and an unwritten honor system pervades among them to stay within the course. Everyone is familiar with the two wheels out rule but not one of them would abuse that rule. Maybe they are more mature as competitors than the rest I do not know but this really impressed me. As I have spoken to some track designers and they all say, "Kaya nga naghirap kami gumawa ng obstacle eh baba-bypassin pa rin lang naman. Eh, di gawin nalang natin highway na patag!" If only more participants from the different regions would endeavor to send at least one representative race vehicle to other regions then maybe we all can benefit from this learning process. Plus one's database of friends would surely grow.
Davao is a real nice place to visit and the off-road events and personalities there are in itself worth visiting already.