I can almost smell the burnt rubber.
Here we are, rolling into the new Clark International Speedway for a day of high octane driving behind the wheel of new Ford Focus race cars at the expert guidance of the Tuason Racing School.
This is gonna be fun.
I have this knack, as Jelly Macachor of Ogilvy points out, for being notoriously the last to come to an event. Any event. Yet there I was, the first to arrive at our arranged meeting place, eager and excited to strap myself in again to the driver's seat of the new TRS Ford Focus race car.
Over the years, we've seen the progress of the racing Ford Focus at the hands of Tuason Racing School. The original School cars consisted of the Ford Lynx, which were good as I was told, but not as good as what TRS was going get in the Ford Focus soon after. With true driving dynamics stemming from a great range of engines and chassis, the Focus was a perfect car to learn on, and it came as no surprise that TRS adopted the Focus as their official school cars.
There were 2 variations of the TRS Ford Focus, with the first being the 1.6 liter sedan, which was then superseded by the more powerful 2.0 liter sport hatchbacks. Now, however, TRS has replaced both with the new 1.8 liter sedan. Incorporating all the lessons learned modifying the Focus to race in the Philippine Touring Car Championships, TRS has transformed the new Focus into a race winning machine, which, incidentally, is the car leading the charge in the new PHTC.
After getting acquainted with the new racecar, JP Tuason, the headmaster of the most exciting school in the country, gave us the lessons he imparts on his students. Most of us have taken TRS classes before, but regardless of experience, it always pays to pay attention, especially when you're about to take a racecar around a racetrack. The morning was spent getting refreshed on the essentials of driving a racecar like braking, braking points, downshifting, racing lines, weight shifts, apexes, the list goes on, but it's all a little hard to understand until you finally strap yourself in the racecar.
Taking the Focus out, TRS instructors take us on a few laps around the track at a steady pace, follow -the-leader style, to get familiarized with the new section of the speedway, especially that daunting, banked corkscrew turn. Just completed, cured and ready for this event, Clark International Speedway's new section is undeniably faster than the first one. Compared to the old section of the track which is a test of technical driving skills, the new section has a smoother rhythm and a faster pace to it with the longer straights.
The TRS instructor thats keeping the pace shows us the proper lines throughout the track and its corners, most of which are best taken with a late apex. Gradually, the instructor speeds up every lap, and finally we get a taste of the track at racing speeds, which on the 1 km long main straight translates to over 200 km/h. A very quick track then, but compared to the Subic International Raceway, the unforgiving track where most of us cut our teeth driving with no run off areas should you get it wrong, it seems that the new Clark Speedway is the perfect place for anyone to learn how to drive hard.
The car definitely feels much faster than the 1.6 liter Focus that I learned to race on before, and surprisingly, much faster than the TDCI racecar. The TDCI version had more power and mounds of torque more, but on a race track, the TDCI has a tendency to run out of huff at higher RPMs. Actually, I preferred the original 1.6 liter sedan version for its better handling balance and more forgiving nature. While those were school cars, the new TRS cars we're driving are the actual racecars that compete in the championship series. Fully stripped out, modified suspension, uprated brakes, fiberglass panels, high performance Goodyear tires and other mods give the new racecar plenty of character on the exciting new track.
Driving a racecar is something that every car nut should get to do in his lifetime, and thanks to TRS and the guys from Ford, it promises be one of the most memorable moments anyone could ever have. Some people don't understand why we like to race hard and drive fast, or why a guy so notoriously late for events eagerly darts out of bed in the morning and raring to go race. Once you get into the Focus racecar with the guys at TRS, even just for a shotgun ride, chances are you are now one of us.