Filipino race car drivers in international motorsports
Are we ever going to have a Filipino Formula One driver?
To be honest, I have asked the same question before. We've been waiting a long time for a Filipino to make it to a Formula One grid. After watching countless races and being able to witness the past and present stars of Philippine motorsports in action, Filipino racing talents don't seem to be lacking any speed at all and are definitely up there with the best the world has to offer.
But before I knew it, life gave me the opportunity to find the answer. After getting myself exposed to the realities of motor racing thanks to GT Academy, I've learned that it's really not a walk in the park to excel in international motorsports, let alone make it to F1. There's no definite path, no shortcut, no age limit, and most of all, there's no restart button.
Driving skills of course is the primary requirement, but that's not the end-all-be-all as people might think. You've got to have some sort of sponsors or partners to fund your career, the PR savvy on and off-cam to grow a fanbase, and in some cases, it just really pays to be in the right place at the right time. Needless to say, it's a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll. Which is why whenever a Filipino makes it big, it's indeed something to be proud of.
This year, a Filipina is getting her shot on the international motorsports scene. Her name is Bianca Bustamante. The 17-year old will race this year in the junior formula called W series which serves as a support race for F1. It's the biggest motorsports event especially made for female racers.
But before Bianca, there were several Filipino drivers in the past (and in the present, too) that made a name for themselves abroad. That being said, let's get to know some of these drivers. Shall we?
Dado Peña - Open-wheel
Eduardo Juan Preysler Peña, better known as Dado, was one of the Filipino youngsters in Formula BMW Asia and the Asian Formula 3 series in the early 2000s. He graduated from karts at the age of 15, and afterward shifted to open-wheelers. Dado was actually signed up with Minardi Team Asia. Back then, Minardi's junior program was somewhat similar to the young driver development programs that Formula 1 teams use today.
In the 2006 Asian Formula 3 season, Peña took his Team Goddard Dallara-Toyota F304 and achieved two wins, four podiums, and two pole positions on his way to 6th in the final AF3 standings.
Gaby dela Merced - Open-wheel / Touring cars
There are actually many talented female racing drivers in the Philippines, and Gaby is definitely an accomplished one. She started off her career in the early 2000s racing production cars in slalom and the Philippine Touring Car Championship. After placing 3rd overall in the 2004 Philippine Formula Toyota Championship, she became a scholarship driver for Formula BMW Asia.
Two years later, she made her way to the Asian Formula 3 series, where she finished 2nd overall in the national driver's championship. After racing in the States in 2009, she finished 10th in her class at the 25 hours of Thunderhill. Currently, Gaby is still participating in local races and last drove for Team Mazda in the Makabayan Endurance Race Challenge Series.
Eduardo Coseteng Jr. - Open-wheel
In case long-time Filipino motorsports fans get confused, Eduardo is the 18-year-old son of motorsports legend Eduardo “Jody” Coseteng Sr., who has won multiple Philippine touring car titles. The second-generation driver from the Coseteng racing family showed great karting pedigree early on, as he won consecutive kart titles from 2017 to 2019 including the Macau International Kart Prix.
In 2021, he made his full-time switch to formula cars and competed in the British Formula 4 Championship. Driving for Argenti Motorsport, Eduardo claimed one pole position, one podium finish, and three fastest laps in his maiden season. In the process, he also scored two rookie class wins and finished the championship 12th overall. He will be campaigning in his second season at British Formula 4 with Hitech GP.
Enzo Pastor - Touring cars
The late Ferdinand “Enzo” Pastor was the brainchild of the local grassroots racing series called Circuit Showdown, which later on became known as FlatOut Race Series (FORS). But before that, he raced in multiple international categories from the early 2000s to the early 2010s. Some of the championships he entered were the Formula Renault Asia Series, Asian Formula 3, and the CTM Macau Touring Car Cup.
He last competed in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in 2013 where he racked up a couple of top 10 finishes on his way to 6th place in the overall standings.
Tyson Sy - Open-wheel
Now referred to as “Konsi”, Valenzuela City 2nd district councilor Tyson Sy is one of the most talented drivers of Philippine motorsports that emerged in the early 2000s. He started racing karts at the age of 11 and quickly became one of the country's brightest stars in go-kart racing.
Tyson stepped up to the Formula BMW Asia Series in 2003 and immediately scored a podium on his debut season. His career highlight came in 2006 when he finished runner-up in the Asian Formula 3 Series driving for Speedtech Asia, taking 3 wins, 11 podiums, and 2 pole positions in 18 races. Today, Tyson Sy is still active in local motorsports whenever he's off duty from being a public servant.
Daniel Miranda - Touring cars
Cebuano race car driver Daniel Miranda, like many other drivers on this list, started on go-karts before making the switch to touring cars. In 2013, he was crowned Philippine Karter of the Year after becoming the Rok Cup Champion.
He made his debut in the Toyota Vios Cup two years later and finished as runner-up for two seasons before taking the title in 2017. In 2018, he had a brief stint with the Formula Renault Asia Series where he finished 4th overall with 3 podium finishes. His most recent success came in the TCR Asia Series. Driving a Hyundai i30 N TCR, Miranda finished as the best-placed Asian after finishing 4th in the standings.
Angie King - Sports cars
Before getting herself into Ferrari's Corse Clienti program, Angelina Mead King was an autocross and drifting enthusiast in the Philippines. She competed in multiple seasons of the Ferrari 488 Challenge, and in the process, got 3 wins, 4 podiums, 3 pole positions, and 3 fastest laps in the 13 races she entered. So far, she only had two retirements and finished 11 out of 13 races in the top 10.
Pepon Marave - Open-wheel
Despite starting his career late compared to other drivers on this list, Pepon Marave had an impressive karting career to go along with his equally successful stint in open-wheel racing. Pepon was a multiple-time karting champion and took titles in the Shell Super Series and the expert class of the Caltex National Karting Series.
He was also a three-time Formula Toyota Cup Philippines Champion in 1996, 1998, and 1999 before becoming the Asian Formula 3 Champion in 2003.
Vincent “Enteng” Floirendo - Sports cars
Two-time Philippine GT Champion Vincent Floirendo spent most of his overseas stint competing in a series of Porsche and Audi races, with his most notable feat coming in the final Audi R8 LMS Cup Championship in 2019 where he was crowned the Challenger Trophy champion.
Dodjie Laurel - Open-wheel
One of the pioneers who helped develop Philippine motorsports in the 60s, Arsenio "Dodjie" Laurel was the son of former President Jose P. Laurel and brother of former Vice President Doy Laurel. Dodjie was the first driver to score back-to-back wins in the prestigious Macau Grand Prix in 1962 and 1963.
However, the Macau Grand Prix also set the stage for his untimely demise. In 1967, his Lotus 41 skidded out of control and smashed into a sea wall after avoiding spectators. The resulting impact made his car burst into flames while he was trapped inside the cockpit. Because of his heroic feat, he was posthumously awarded a place of honor at the Macau Grand Prix Museum.
Jovy Marcelo - Open-wheel
Unlike other drivers in this list who started their racing careers in the Philippines, the late Jovy Marcelo spent most of his motorsports career in the United States. He proved to be a rising star after finishing runner-up in his rookie year at the Formula Atlantic Championship in 1990, then took the title in 1991 against future CART Champion Jimmy Vasser.
A year later, Marcelo graduated to the CART PPG Cup which is connected to the current IndyCar Series in the US. However, this would prove to be his fateful final season as Marcelo suffered a fatal accident during warmups of the Indy 500. Following his death, the Formula Atlantic Championship created the Jovy Marcelo Sportsmanship Award to honor his memory.
Marlon Stockinger - Open wheel
Arguably the closest Filipino racing driver (so far) to make it into Formula One, Marlon Stockinger competed in Formula Renault 3.5, as well as the GP3 and GP2 series (which are now called F3 and F2, respectively) that served as a support race for the majority of the F1 calendar.
After becoming the first-ever Filipino to win the Monaco Grand Prix in 2012, Stockinger was signed up as a member of the Lotus F1 Junior Team and underwent the same training program that brought drivers like Charles Leclerc and George Russell to the F1 grid. His last international racing stint was in the Blancpain GT Series where he drove an Audi R8 LMS for team ISR.