What was a hotly anticipated showdown in local circuit racing turned into a domination of sorts in the first two rounds of the Philippine National Touring Car Championship held last May 19 at the Batangas Racing Circuit. Jody Coseteng of Team Globe/Caltex/Red Horse/Autoplus bested his rival Jojo Silverio of Toyota Team Tom's in both rounds of the event, the two of them showing why they are among the top race drivers in the country. The weekend was not without it's fair share of mishaps though as there were spinouts, crashes, and retirements; even the weather refused to cooperate.
The PNTCC race had it's share of irony as the top two drivers battled each other out. Jody Coseteng returns to the team that brought him much heralded success a few years back while Jojo Silverio takes Jody's place in the Tom's team. Also present for this race were veterans Nilo Pazcoguin and Tom Pastor, rookie youngster Don Pastor, Jojo's teammate Vincent Floriendo, and as an added surprise, ace Formula 3 driver Pepon Marave running a Kilton sponsored Toyota Levin.
Coseteng was able to take pole position with Silverio coming in at second. As the lights turned green, both men nailed hard on the accelerator as they blasted off the starting line. Coming into the first corner, a right-hander, Silverio took the inside line and tried to overtake but Coseteng just shut the door on him. That first corner maneuver was the closest that Silverio could get as Coseteng just kept on getting faster and faster with each passing lap. In the end Jody took the checkered flag with Jojo over 4 seconds behind. Vincent Floriendo, also of Team Tom's, managed a third place.
As Round 2 of the PNTCC was about to start, the clouds opened up and dumped a torrent of rain on the track. The different teams struggled to change their setups and mount new tires. The track officials immediately decided to momentarily postpone the race because of the heavy downpour.
After several minutes the rain still refused to stop, prompting the directors to consider canceling the race altogether. "We have to put into consideration the safety of the racers," said Mr. Gabby Intengan. "It will be unsafe if we let them go through the flooded areas of the track, it will cause aquaplaning which might lead to accidents," he further added.
Fortunately though the rain did let up quite a bit. But now a new challenge and dilemma persisted. Pockets of sunlight were already starting to appear so teams had to quickly decide to go for the wet or the dry setup.
Team Autoplus decided to stick to rain tires and a wet setup while Team Tom's gambled on dry Advan tires. As the race started Silverio once again attempted to overtake on the first corner but was quickly shut down. It was obvious in the first few laps of the race that the Tom's drivers were having a hard time controlling the cars. Silverio even spun out and allowed teammate Floriendo to take 2nd place. Meanwhile Coseteng was pushing real hard to build as big a gap as possible. The track began to quickly dry up during the closing stages of the race. Coseteng was backing off a bit, deliberately running his car over the few remaining puddles of water. "The tires were beginning to overheat, that's why I had to run them over the water puddles in the track", said Coseteng after the race. The Tom's drivers meanwhile were getting quicker and quicker but the gap was just too big to close.
In the end, Coseteng took first place with Floriendo coming in around 26 seconds behind. Silverio still managed to take third. Team Autoplus certainly made the right choice as far as setups were concerned. According to Francisco Blanco, chief mechanic for Autoplus, the setup they had during that time was perfect for monsoon conditions.