Text: Miguel Ang Laney / Photos: Brent Co | posted January 26, 2006 08:00
The recent interest in classic and vintage cars in the country is undeniable. The just concluded and very successful Manila Sports Car Club Concours d' Elegance is proof in the pudding. Praises were given both locally and abroad. An automotive glossy in Japan dedicated four pages to the event; the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong even called the event "the best in the region." This is definitely a reason for the country to be proud of its wealth in craftsmanship and dedication in ownership.
The primary aim of the Manila Sports Car Club is to keep the vintage sports cars in the Philippines on the road. The club offers various events; from monthly meetings where technical information is shared to fun runs where family members enjoy a weekend breakfast outside the city. There are nautical runs from Manila to Davao and back that help prove the reliability of these 30-plus year old cars. The owners take pride that their cars are no garage queens.
It is only human nature to want to push the envelope. There are a few in the club that push their cars further. Being responsible citizens they do this on the racetrack. These hardy gentlemen-racers reacted to the transition of cars to computers and electronics. Carburetors became an incongruity and racing cars became highly tuned computers on wheels, which served to distance them from their street-driven kin. The cost of staying competitive began to skyrocket. The necessity of sponsorship in order to race became the norm. In order to maintain one's sponsorship, results were expected. This brought about aggressive driving which would result in the occasional mangling of cars. These factors made legitimate racing both here and abroad prohibitive to a greater majority. Enter Vintage racing.
Vintage racing is fundamentally different from other forms of racing because success on the track is not the sole gauge for winning. The very fact that you have a 30-year old car running at speed and taking corners at the edge of traction is testament to the cars condition and value. The cars are literally the stars. There is nothing like seeing a grid filled with vintage sports cars ready to race. They may be slower and even less expensive than a present-day Japanese touring car but that is where this type of racing gets its charm. Where in the Philippines can you see Triumphs, Datsuns, Alfa Romeos, Opels, and MGBs all lined up ready to race?
The cars are expected to look and perform the way they did in their heyday. This keeps the costs of this primarily owner-funded form of racing low. No latest and high-tech, go-fast equipment to throw your hard earned money at every year. One had to make do with what was there during the time the car was made. Drivers are expected to avoid contact at all costs. To do otherwise would result in severe penalties for accidents.
This PG-rated approach to racing does not mean that these events are parades. Vintage racers can run as hard as they like as long as they handle their cars safely. A typical vintage racer would be 35 to 65 years of age and has had a keen interest in cars and racing for a long period of time. They would vary from grassroots racers, who work on their cars themselves, and more privileged individuals, who both share the dictum that it's not what you're racing, it's because you're racing. A great bond and camaraderie exists among these racers and social lines are blurred because of a common love for cars. Individual sponsors are discouraged to keep the costs down. For those who want to go faster and are gung-ho on winning, they move on to a more serious racing series.
The Manila Sports Car Club has its rules on what qualifies as a sports car. Only cars older than those made in 1976 may run. A replica class is available for newer cars that share the same configuration as the cars that are allowed to run. They encourage their members to restore their cars to period-racing condition, with concessions given for modern safety equipment such as rollbars and safety harnesses.
If the low-key atmosphere and friendly attitude attracts you, or if you were a former racer who finds the intensity of competition tiresome or you are a fan of particular marque who always wanted to race cars just like the ones they read about when they were younger, Vintage racing sounds like it might be your cup of tea. Visit http://www.manilasportscarclub.org/ or write and see when the next race will be. Who knows? You may be on the grid in the next one.