It is a given that when a new vehicle is launched in the market, the manufacturer behind the new vehicle often takes the opportunity to offer test drives to the public as a means of exposure. It becomes even better when the public test drive/s involve a modicum of racing skills. It becomes even more interesting when the vehicle in question uses fuel other than your everyday petrol.

This is the case of the Ford Flex Fuel Vehicle (FFV) Road Challenge.

This exhibition of the gas-ethanol powered (80 per cent gasoline, 20 per cent ethanol) Focus gave the motoring public, members of the motoring media and various names in entertainment and elite social circles the opportunity to drive HARD Ford's biggest (and latest) contribution to a more eco-friendly Metro Manila. The event (held at the SM Mall of Asia open grounds in Pasay City) showed that even eco-vehicles such as the aforementioned Focus FFV can be driven to their limits in a controlled race setting. "The re-introduction of the Ford Focus FFVs to the public forms part of our commitment in doing our share to ensure a cleaner and greener environment, as well as ensure continuous automotive innovation. This is in support of the Philippine government's bio-fuels program, which aims to promote a cleaner environment, reduce dependence on imported fuel and spur long-dormant agricultural development in the rural areas," said Luie Dy Buncio, Ford Group Philippines vice-president for sales and marketing.

The FFV Road Challenge featured (for the public) all four variants of the C1 Medium (chassis code for the new Focus) vehicle – the 1800 cc Ghia sedan, the 2000 cc hatchback, the 1600 cc Trend sedan and FFV versions of the said three Focus flavors. The public also were greeted by a faux WRC (World Rally Championship)-inspired C1 Medium Focus, with aftermarket exterior components supplied by A-Toy Body Kits and Concept One wheels. On the other hand, motoring media and celebrities gamely raced against the clock in individual time trial battles for cash prizes of P30,000 (first place), P15,000 (second place) and P10,000 (third place).

Now for the show

The Focus FFV Road Challenge proper featured two stages – an elimination stage and a finals stage –and a tarmac course that "focused" more on the Focus FFV's wicked display of torque, its road holding abilities, transmission durability (the unit used was a 1600cc manual transmission model) and synchronization of suspension and tire. Each participant in the eliminations was given two practice runs and one timed run. In contrast, participants' passes in the finals were limited to just two, with the better time between the two runs counting as one's best time.

The course (run within the Manila Bay Reclamation Area near the Mall of Asia) featured a flowing eight to ten pylon slalom weave, a tricky left hand hairpin and a tight s-curve at the start and finish point. A pylon hit meant an additional two seconds to one's time.