The action became more exciting, as the championship series moved to Gaisano Mall in Bacolod City for the 3rd leg of the 2003 Caltex Delo 4x4 Extreme Series. A total of 35 participants representing different clubs from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao paticipated in the national event hosted by the Bacolod Off-Roaders.
As the championship series nears the final leg to decide the Off-Roader of the Year, the competition became tighter as only a few points separate the front runners for the award. Series leader Agustin Macmang, still fired up from his sensational performance in Davao is determined to take the much coveted title after last year's king of the hill Timtom Gempesaw dropped out of the series after suffering serious injuries sidelining him for the rest of the season. Other contenders Robert Abas, Bobit Espanola, Larry Alberto, and Richard Emano are hopeful that will move up the championship ladder as well with Gempesaw's unfortunate accident.
The first order for the race was for the participants to walk the track to familiarize themselves on the different obstacles they will have to tackle for the weekend. Race director Raymond Ibrado led the drivers and their crew around the track and explained the obstacles and rules. Tracks A and B are two identical tracks made for the competition consisting of a table top, horizontal canals, uneven horizontal canals, log crossing, tire pit, u-turn v-canal, jumps and a splash pit. The track design for the 3rd leg was considered to be 'milder' being a speed inclined track rather than the previous two very technical tracks. Each competitor had to make eliminations runs in both tracks, as the top 20 will make the final round for Track C which will feature a new set of obstacles in addition to Track B.
Each competitor started at the same time for both tracks making it a obstacle race to the finish line as pumped up adrenalines drove the way as drivers tried to best out each other by making it to the finish line first. An interesting duel was seen when Bilstein sponsored Agustin Macmang squared off against Rancho distributor Jojo Fuentes as they sped off the tracks for a suspension battle.
The battle for the top spot in Track A was very exciting as competitors bested out each other by shattering the elapsed times to beat. The changes all laid to rest when Shell Suzuki 4x4 Club's Larry Alberto bested all other competitors in the second round with a scorching 1:09.18 relegating Team Delo's Noel Bartolome to second best time (1:13.81) for Track A.
Meanwhile in Track B, it was points leader Agustin Macmang of Team Tide/Bilstein/CDO Offroad Club carrying the flag as he set a dominant 1:14.90 elapsed time on the track, also on the second round. Running a close second and third within two-seconds were teammate Robert Abas (1:15.56) and Joel Miranda (1:16.37) of the Santiago Extreme Offroad Club.
The race format made the racetrack a little more complicated than what it seemed like. The simultaneous starting added a psychological factor to some of the competitors who seemingly forgot about the obstacles and tried to best the other competitor ending up damaging their vehicle.
The excitement was not yet over as the total aggregate time from Tracks A and B were being computed. The top 20 qualifiers were finally decided out of the 22 finishers from the original 35. Interestingly, the top three qualifiers were within one-second apart of each other which meant a very action-packed final round. And as the race order was raffled off, it became more exciting as the top qualifiers were to run in the latter part of the final round.
As the final round went on, there were those who made it through, some who unfortunately didn't quite make and some who simply dominated. It was a heartstopping final showdown between Larry Alberto and Albert Monte De Ramos who were just a mere two-tenths of a second apart going into the final round. Monte de Ramos drew first blood with a shattering time which was later almost bested by Alberto had he not committed a mistake in pressing the stopwatch. As a result, Alberto lost 3 seconds literally handing over the win to Leg 1 Champion Monte de Ramos.
"As the tire is round, so is the competition. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don't. You have to have a good presence of mind and a good strategy when taking on the obstacles. Of course vehicle setup is also very important, but it's not all about the hardware, but it does help. But I am really thankful that I have a sponsor like Bilstein to help me through the tracks with state of the art suspension," said Monte De Ramos.
The most applauded final round runner was again 66-year old participant Johnny Ferrazzini, who now was not a hometown favorite but was admired by the Bacolod people as the oldest competitor. Ferrazzini of 4Wheelers Davao again finished in the top ten earning himself a well-deserved 8th place with his relaxed driving style. Hometown favorite Jojo Fuentes did not finish in the top ten, but would probably win in the people's choice award and best lit vehicle award as he illuminated his way through the track as the crowd cheered him on. The sons of Luzon were the dominant competitors in this leg with three of the top ten finishers coming from Manila (Larry Alberto, Brian Diaz, Richard Sy) and one from Isabela (Joel Miranda).
The Official top ten finishers were led by Albert Monte De Ramos - CDO Off-Road Club (1st); Larry Alberto - Shell Suzuki 4x4 Club (2nd); Agustin Macmang - CDO Off-Road Club (3rd); Robert Abas - CDO Off-Road Club (4th); Butoy Gamallo - Cebu Off-roaders (5th); Patrick Villanueva - Bacolod Off-Roader (6th); Frederick John Juanico - 4x4 Fun Club - Kabankalan (7th); Johnny Ferrazzini - 4Wheelers Davao (8th); Brian Diaz - Manila Off-Roaders Inc. (9th); Richard Sy - Manila Off-Roaders Inc. (10th).
The event was supported by Caltex DELO Sports, Simex Tires, Jojo Off-Road, Ride Inc., Centerline, Rats 4x4, Motolite and many other sponsors.