Given how we're pushing the new Mitsubishi Mirage -practically fresh off of its launch and after being crowned as the 2012-2013 Car of the Year Philippines- to its limits here at the Mitsubishi Mirage Gymkhana Precision Driving Competition, that just might hold true.


The series

Mitsubishi announced that they were going to hold the Mirage gymkhana (pronounced jim-kanna) series after the car was hailed as the Philippines Car of the Year by the Car Awards Group, Inc., as part of their efforts to market the car to younger drivers.

The competition series would involve four separate and unique legs wherein the contestants would have to race against the clock and drive around a fixed course where precision and accuracy are key.

The rules were simple: the fastest times would win, though there were a series of heavy penalties for hitting cones (5 seconds each), screeching tires upon take-off (10 seconds) or even crunched gears while shifting (30 seconds). Precision, precision.

There were also two divisions, the first one composed of car clubs and fleet customers, including the likes of Club Mitsu, MitsuLancerPh, Mirage Pilipinas, Asia Brewery, Getz Brothers, Strada Club, Coca Cola, Universal Robina Corporation, among others.

We didn't need racing suits given that the speeds weren't that fast; we only needed helmets. I figured it was a good opportunity to break out the Iron Man-liveried helmet... too bad we weren't driving R8's.

We were in the Media division, and that included C! Magazine, 2 teams from Top Gear Philippines,, Manila Bulletin, Philippine Star, Sunshine TV, a pair of CAGI teams and more. Judging from how things go in a motoring media racing competition, this is going to be fun, extremely competitive and with a lot of heckling.

Each team was to be composed of two drivers. Being a multi-leg event, organizers adopted an FIA Formula One point system, wherein the team in 1st place for a particular leg would get 25 points, the 2nd placers would get 18, so on and so forth. At the end of the 4 leg series, the points will be tallied to find an overall champion.

Given that the top 3 from each division were going to get PhP 100,000, PhP 50,000 and PhP 25,000 respectively, rest assured that the championship is going to be fierce.


The all-new Mitsubishi Mirage

As the name states, we will be using the new Mitsubishi Mirage hatchback.

Launched in late 2012, the Mirage quickly became the hottest selling hatch in a country not known to welcome hatchbacks with open arms and wallets. Nevertheless, people were attracted to the Mirage for its outstanding value for money proposition, comfortable seating and ride, as well as excellent fuel economy from its 1.2 liter 3A92 engine; the main reason for new car purchases worldwide.

The cars in the Mirage Gymkhana challenge only get basic modifications to the car like Concept One wheels and Nitto tires, an aftermarket air filter as well as strut bars from 199 Off Road House. The Mirages were also given liveries, and frankly, they looked quite cool.

Enough with that, on with the gymkhana.


Leg 1: SM Mall of Asia Complex - Pasay City

Kicking off the Mirage Gymkhana Series, participants trooped on over to the SM Mall of Asia parking lot. Organizers had a pair of courses that mirrored each other, and the cars would have to traverse their respective course and then cross on over to the other side.

This was to be a pure speed contest. Sounds simple, right?

We drove the course and, needless to say, it was extremely tight. Every corner was practically a hairpin and on extremely coarse concrete tiles. The tires, suspension and gearboxes of the Mitsubishi Mirage must really not be loving this and, on top of that the rain kicked in. Not good.

There was also an added challenge of assembling a puzzle at the tent area, serving as a means to lower your overall time as a bonus.

After all was said and done, we were all given the results. In the Club/Fleet Division, Team Club Mitsu A took the top spot for 25 points, followed by Team MitsuLancerPh for 18 points and Team Club Mitsu B in 3rd with 15 points.

What surprised even us was that in the Media Division, Team took the win for 25 points, while Team Top Gear B was in 2nd for 18 points and Team Manila Bulletin was in 3rd for 15 points.

After the first leg we were in the lead and we knew it was time to get a bit more serious.

Game face on.


Leg 2: Robinsons Mall Parking Lot - Fairview, Quezon City

A few weeks after the first leg, we then made our way in the opposite direction to the Robinson's Fairview parking lot for the 2nd part of the Mitsubishi Mirage Gymkhana Precision Driving Competition.

This time was going to be different, as the course looked much more challenging than before. It's still about pure speed, but now it involves multiple parking boxes and 360 degree turns. On top of that, the course isn't on an even surface as the course is laid out on an inclined parking lot. This should be interesting.

What was sure about the leg was that the parking boxes proved very tricky, with drivers having to maneuver the Mitsubishi Mirage from one box and around to another... in reverse. Also, one of the faster portions of the course had the tires on a tricky steel grille; it's okay if you're going slow, but if you're trying to accelerate, steel wouldn't be your first choice for a surface.

For a bonus challenge, we had to do a little in-car name that tune. I actually thought that we had it in the bag, but given the song list comprised of very old tunes, that wasn't so. And no, Soundhound was not allowed.

When the dust settled, the results were once again tallied and in the Club/Fleet Division, it was Team MyMitsu that emerged the victor, followed closely by Team Club Mitsu A in second place and Club Mitsu B in third.

In the overall standings, Team Club Mitsu A still had a commanding lead at 43 points, with Team MyMitsu jumping up to 2nd overall with with 35 points, while Team MitsuLancerPh dropped to third overall with 33 points.

In the Media Division it was Team C! Magazine that won, with Team Top Gear B in second and Team Top Gear A in third.

With the result from the second leg, Team still led the championship at 37 points, while Team Top Gear B closed the gap with 33 points overall and Team C! Magazine jumping up the standings from 0 to 25 points after the win.

It's bound to get really competitive from here on out.


Leg 3 – Bonifacio Global City Parking Lot, Taguig City

From Manila Bay and Fairview, we now troop over to one of the parking lots in Bonifacio High Street for the penultimate leg of the Mitsubishi Mirage Gymkhana Precision Driving Competition.

As we were walking up to the course, we already knew this leg was going to be very, very different, as there were pitchers of colored water on the hoods of the cars; a very familiar sight from the numerous driving contests we had taken part in.

After settling in, we were briefed on the leg. This time we had to drive extremely smoothly around the track, given that retaining as much of the colored water would be key. Each mark corresponds to a certain time penalty added overall; and we're not talking seconds here, as each mark represents one minute added.

On top of that, apart from the standard parking boxes and 360 degree turns that we have already become familiar with, we now have to contend with a bit of planking. No, not the social media kind; we had to put two of the car's tires on a series of planks on the ground, kind of like tightrope walking, though you really had to know where the tires were being placed.

Looks like this will be the slowest round ever, yet we still needed helmets.

Some teams went through the course fast but lost a lot of water, some went too slow though they kept the water penalty to a minimum. The trend for the day was to drive the Mitsubishi Mirage at a decent pace that lost you only 1 mark on the pitcher, like what we tried to do.

To make up for the pace, we also had to do another in-car name-that-tune, but this time we had double the minutes to do so.

When all was said and done, Team Club Mitsu A once again emerged on top, with Team Club Mitsu B in 2nd and Mirage Pilipinas in 3rd place.

Team Club Mitsu A extended a commanding lead by 21 points, as they now stand at 68 points compared to 2nd placer Team MyMitsu with 27 points. Team Club Mitsu B moved back up in 3rd overall with 45 points ahead of Team MitsuLancerPh with 41.

In the Media Division, Team Sunshine Television took the top spot for 25 points, followed by Team Business Mirror for 18 points in 2nd and Team in 3rd for 15 points.

Team re-extended their lead over Team Top Gear B with 52 points and 41 points respectively, while Team Sunshine Television catapulted up to 3rd place with 35 points, followed by Team Top Gear A with 30 points and Team C! Magazine with 29 points.

It's going to be a horse race at the final leg in a few weeks' time.


Leg 4: SM Mall of Asia Complex - Pasay City

For the conclusion of the 2013 Mitsubishi Mirage Gymkhana Precision Driving Competition, competitors once again made their way to the SM Mall of Asia grounds in Pasay. This time, however, the course is much larger and quicker, pulling together the skills that participants acquired over the last 3 legs.

Driving the course is quite tricky, as it's far more complex than before. There were parking boxes, planks, sharp turns, hairpins and chicanes strewn all around the track. To top it all off that Saturday saw the beginnings of Tropical Storm Maring, and thus the Mitsubishi Mirage had to contend with  extremely heavy rains and winds, not to mention a semi-flooded 360 degree turn.

We took our turns driving the course and, as expected, it was tricky. The wipers had trouble keeping up with the heavy rain, and the puddles and flooded areas of the track made the planks very hard to see.

The pressures of leading the series began to catch up with me, as I found myself making mistakes around the track, particularly on the planks. Though Team Top Gear B was right on our heels in the points, they too had a challenging time on the track. Our primary rival came in the form of Team Sunshine Television, where Matt Mallari was driving the wheels off of the Mirage, setting the fastest time and undoubtedly about to finish first in our division.

At 52 points, we would be vulnerable had we finished in 6th place or lower, given that Team STV would finish with 60 points with their run. I guess we'll just have to wait and find out.


The final results

When all was said and done, Mitsubishi executives and the organizers got together to tally the final results.

Club/Fleet Champions

In the Club/Fleet Division, it was Team Club Mitsu A that took the title, clocking a massive lead with 93 points over 2nd place overall winner, Team MyMitsu at 65 points. Rounding up the top 3 overall was Team Club Mitsu B with 57 points.

Media Champions

In our division, Team STV win the leg, giving them a point total of 60 points, while Team Top Gear B finished with 49 points. And since Team finished in 4th place, we clinched the title in a close race with 64 points.

The pressure was off, now we can relax.


The hatch to beat

The hero of the 4-leg gymkhana series was, with out a doubt, the Mitsubishi Mirage.

Over the course just under 2 months, the Mirage was subjected to unbelievable punishment on a tight parking lot racetracks, enduring about 40 or more different drivers with varying driving styles and skill. Despite the abuse, the Mirage took its licking and kept on ticking, and not only that, they never had to fuel up a single car midway through each leg.

The Mitsubishi Mirage has proven its mettle and reliability, and with the launch of the sedan version, the Mirage G4, the nameplate will continue to do the Mitsubishi brand proud for years to come, on and off the racetrack.