Text: Brent Co / Photos: Brent Co | posted May 18, 2006 12:00
Kookie Ramirez sweeps 2006 PTCC season opener
After a successful 2005 season for the Philippine National Touring Car Championship, series promoter Race Fans Inc., turned the green lights on for the 2006 Philippine Touring Car Championship (PTCC). The series has now been renamed to a more proper name after much deliberation with the Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP) Motorsports division. The 2006 San Mig Coffee-Petron Blaze PTCC season debuted with 21 cars on the grid at the Batangas Racing Circuit.
Petron SRA's Kookie Ramirez swept both opening rounds besting defending champion San Miguel Corporation driver Jody Coseteng who held up quite a challenge to Ramirez. Ramirez is looking on turning the tables this season as he sets to win his first PTCC crown after finishing second place to Coseteng for eight seasons already. In Group 3, newcomer Nico Montinola gave his comptitiors quite a surprise taking the first round, while another newcomer, Francisco Blanco of Team Race Fans/Velocity Motors scored a win in the second round.
In Group 1 qualifying, it was Kookie Ramirez who was on pole position followed by Coseteng took second spot on the grid. On the second row was MP Turbo's Carlos Anton followed by Petron SRA's Louis Ramirez. In Group 3 qualifying, Nico Montinola took pole position with Peewee Mendiola beside him as the second row was filled by JP Cariño and Matteo Guidicelli.
It was a clean start for the season as the green lights went on as the cars went through, it was still Kookie Ramirez leading the pack with Coseteng right behind. Louis Ramirez was able to get a better start to tuck into third ahead of Anton, the two had several position changes as they duelled for third midway through the race. Focus however had to be given to Don Pastor who climbed the ladder at a surprising pace despite having started from dead last as he failed to qualify. The young driver managed to go up to fourth but later dropped down the order.
Right in front, it was still the same story as Kookie Ramirez was definitely driving a spectacular race as Coseteng gave a challenging chase. The duo was only separated with a 2.3 second difference with both drivers running consistent laptimes. Behind them, it was now Anton who grabbed the advantage over Louis Ramirez. At the checkered, the order was Kookie Ramirez, Coseteng, and Anton.
In Group 3, it was Mendiola who was able to take advantage of his experience benefitting from a good start as Cariño also took advantage of novice driver Montinola's slow start. Sparks started flying in the first lap as Francisco Blanco accidentally hit Guidicelli in turn two with no room to go through, this allowed Jeff Borja to slide past them.
The action in front got more exciting as the laps progressed as Montinola managed to slide past Cariño. Guidicelli and Blanco meanwhile, managed to find their way through Borja who was quite a challenge to pass as he took advantage of the whole track. A relentless Montinola was not satisfied with second as he further chased Mendiola and eventually managed to pass the seasoned driver. Guidicelli on the other hand, determined to get on the podium, chased Cariño and managed to pass the latter to slide into third. And so, at the checkered, it was Montinola taking the win in his maiden race followed by Mendiola and Guidicelli.
As the 5 lights went of Jody Coseteng had a great start and got alongside polesitter Kookie Ramirez, Louis Ramirez was tucked into the back of the two cars in front. Locked brakes meant that Coseteng would drift past the corner and into the right ride of Kookie Ramirez, this allowed Louis Ramirez into the lead with Coseteng and Kookie R. tucking in behind him.
Louis then held off Coseteng and his brother for a few laps of exciting racing that saw the trio looking for space along the front straight. Kookie and Jody found their way around Louis and broke away. Kookie Ramirez then took the lead and pulled away, with Jody staying close behind. Louis Ramirez then found himself challenged once again by Carlos Anton, as the two dueled all throughout the race.
The second round of Group 3 saw another early incident specifically in the first lap. It was again Peewee Mendiola pulling away at the start with JP Cariño right behind as Montinola fumbled yet again another pole start. Guidicelli managed to stay inches behind the rookie and managed to take the inside line going into turn three as Montinola went wide. Contact between the two sent Montinola into a spin but managed to rejoin the race in dead last.
It was however another rookie driver who was to watch out for in the this race, Francisco Blanco showed the seasoned drivers that he is definitely a force to reckon with as he manage to climb up and close on the lead lap by lap. Montinola, intent on getting back up, clawed his way up eventually managing to get right behind Blanco. However a rookie mistake sent him into a spin once again sliding him down to fourth. Blanco was closing when up ahead Matteo dove to the inside of Peewee as they entered the fast Bryant's Corner, the duo touched and both slid sideways allowing Francisco into the lead. At the finish, it was Blanco, Guidicelli and Mendiola. Montinola took the Novice class win despite the spins.