After pushing the latest Potenza models to the limits on the tarmac of the Batangas Circuit, and after dancing in the dirt with the latest Dueler tires at Clark Speedway's rallycross course, Vince and I headed off to the third and final leg of the Bridgestone Cup. This time, however, we won't be maxing out with Bridgestones for speed, as we will be trying to be as fuel efficient as possible as Philippine Allied Enterprises Corporation, the official distributor of Bridgestone in the country, will be showcasing their new Ecopia line of tires; rubber designed to give you more kilometers with every drop of fuel.
So, no problem then.
I have to admit that this leg is probably the most challenging one in this series; instead of being the fastest on the track with the Potenza or getting as much traction as possible with the Dueler on the muddy terrain, this leg requires the utmost patience and self-discipline from the drivers. The main objective of this leg was to travel the longest distance that we can in identical examples of the Toyota Vios 1.3J, equipped with Bridgetone's Ecopia tires, all while consuming the least amount of time and fuel.
To be able to test the Ecopia's performance, a 30 minute drive around the Batangas Racing Circuit (15minutes for each driver) was included in our challenge, after which we would head on a specific route back to Alabang. To make the event more challenging, all teams need to stop at selected Caltex checkpoints along the way to solve eco-themed puzzles that were prepared for us.
Before the 'race' started, the organizers were kind enough to let us inspect the car and do whatever fuel-saving tips we needed to do like shaking the cars (to remove air pockets from the fuel tank) prior to filling up or even re-allocating weight (i.e. spare tire) into the cabin for better distribution. Other teams even went as far as sealing the gaps in the front with duct tape to minimize drag and “improve” wind resistance.
Vince and I have agreed that he'll be the one doing the first 15 minutes on the track. Our strategy was to achieve the most number of laps as we can with an average speed of 80km/h at an rpm reading of 2,000rpm. The guys from Tuason Racing School placed several pylons to act as gates to make the race more challenging, as the key to the drive was maintaining speed and momentum in the corners. Even with those gates, driving around the track was so unusual as it was eerily quiet, and you can hardly see anybody tailing behind, as everybody was trying to drive as consistently as possible.
After the 30 minute portion, we were released in group of twos in 10 minute intervals. At the first stop, we had to improvise a contraption to catch enough (simulated) rainwater, and promptly headed on out. We were lucky enough to not get lost in the city of Lipa, and even passed by several teams that went ahead of us as we were trying to get to the destination faster. We made our way to the STAR Tollway and thankfully the weather cooperated in the way that it was cool enough to allow us to open the windows just enough to let a sufficient amount of cool air in for two guys eager to achieve the best results possible. Within reason, of course.
It was on the expressway that we got to test the rolling resistance of the tire, and it did a good job at maintaining speed even while coasting. We just decided to stick with 80km/h during the entire duration of the trip, until we traversed the STAR Tollway, ACTEx, and onto the next checkpoint in SLEX. We arrived at the Caltex station with another team, and the race was on with the waste segregation task. After completing the mini challenge, off we went for the last checkpoint in Alabang.
The stretch of road from the Caltex gas station in SLEX to Filinvest exit was starting to get congested, but we made it to the next stop without a hitch. Our team together with the duo of Mikko David and Marlon Dacumos from Top Gear arrived at the last checkpoint at the same time, so Vince and I tried to solve the last and the most difficult task, a number/letter cipher, in record time.
With the challenges completed, we pushed our cars to the pumps, where we broke the seal on the fuel tank and filled it up to the brim again. As it turns out, our team, driving a the Toyota Vios 1.3 J with a 5-speed manual transmission, and fitted with Bridgetone Ecopia tires, managed to consume just 1.972 liters over a driven distance of 104.5 kilometers. After a quick computation, we yielded 52.99 kilometers for every liter. No extreme tricks, but we didn't have aircon either. We were quite happy with the result that we got, but two other teams bested our result, consuming just a bit more than 1.6 liters, while others consumed over 2 liters of fuel.
Regardless of whether we won the challenge, or not, Bridgestone truly proved how their tires performed when it comes to fuel economy. With 3 teams garnering well over 50 km/l, it's an impressive performance by the drivers, the cars, and -of course- the tires.