Nobody really saw it coming.
During the qualifying session for the now-postponed Toyota Vios Cup Exhibition Race, a very unexpected result came about: model Phoemela Baranda (driving Vios Cup Car #12) bested everyone to qualify on pole position. She did the lap in 1:16.572 to get ahead of the 2nd placer's 1:16.598.
The story almost writes itself; a group of highly-experienced men from the motoring media, all of whom were consistently the quickest during the practice sessions, were out-driven when it mattered most.
By a celebrity. By a model. By a lady.
The result was surprising, but if you were there then you'd know that Phoemela Baranda and Rhian Ramos had been consistently getting quicker with every practice, with the former already with prior racing experience while the latter had to learn how to drive stick (manual) at the same time. By the last session Phoem was already nipping at the heels of the leaders, and was able to clinch pole position by 26 thousandths of a second.
I can't even begin to explain how surprising this was, nor could I even begin to tell you about the raised eyebrows (mockery, even) that some of us taking part in the race have been at the receiving end of. I was getting comments like “Dude what happened?” and “Pare, you guys got chicked!” and “You were beaten by a girl?”
One message from a good friend struck a bit hard: “So boys, anyone wanna explain how you're allowing your asses to get kicked by Phoem?”
Boom! Slam! Whapakk!
Let me explain that this isn't about how we were beaten by a girl on the racetrack, but rather about how surprised I am at the sexist connotations behind a lot of reactions to the qualifying results. What's also confusing is that it's not just coming from men but from women as well; quite a few, in fact.
Personally, I would have thought that the local motoring scene had gone past the hurdle of this kind of sexism. We have quite a few highly accomplished female race car drivers in Gaby Dela Merced and Michele Bumgarner. We also have three automotive companies in the country that are headed by women: Ginia Domingo is the president of Columbian Autocar Corporation (distributor of Kia), Maricar Parco is the big boss of ACC (distributor of BMW) while Fe Perez-Agudo heads up HARI (distributor of Hyundai), leading Hyundai to a solid third in sales behind Toyota and Mitsubishi.
Despite all that, a bit of sexism still exists. Nothing we can really do but accept it.
Thankfully racing is a unique discipline in the world of sport, particularly because gender doesn't matter. It's not like tennis, basketball, boxing or football where you have different tournaments for men and women; in a race -most especially a one-make race- all are equal.
A fully-prepped race car does not discriminate between testosterone or estrogen, nor will a checkered flag recognize one sex over another. Skill, consistency, stamina and the bravery to push the car to the point where the tires are dancing on the limit of adhesion are the things that matter most, and a very pretty woman delivered more of these than us boys during the qualifying time trials for the Toyota Vios Cup.
Sadly due to the typhoon last October 12 the Vios Cup was postponed, but the qualifying results will stand for a race day that has yet to be re-finalized.
The order of the grid will have Phoemela Baranda in P1 (1:16.572), Vince Pornelos in P2 (1:16.598), Jeff Reyes in P3 (1:16.715), James Deakin in P4 (1:17.033), Jinno Rufino in P5 (1:18.163), Inigo Roces in P6 (1:18.560), Brian Afuang in P7 (1:21.299), Botchi Santos in P8 (1:21.700), Aris Ilagan in P9 (1:21.721), Fabio Ide in P10 (1:22.092), Rhian Ramos in P11 (1:25.560) and Aljur Abrenica in P12 (1:26.577).
Mind you, the reason why the gaps between the times of P6 versus P7 onwards are so large is because the 12 drivers were split into two groups of six based on practice times to avoid impeding each other on Clark International Speedway's short track. The rain had just begun during the first (P1-P6) qualifying stint, and had gotten stronger as the afternoon progressed for the second (P7-P12) QTT session, taking away much of the grip. On race day, all will be equal.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a real race on our hands.
To be honest with you, all bets are off.