The weekend of March 8 and 9 marked the start of the racing season for the SVI Grand Prix. It signaled the start for another exciting season featuring the Blaze Super Saloon Series and the SVI Challenge Cup. This season features a new class for the Super Saloon Series which is the Super A Class with veteran Class A drivers who have already won a championship. Competing in this division are Louis Ramirez, Jody Coseteng and Kookie Ramirez.
Several class changes were also made especially for the B Division as a couple of drivers were upgraded to A. Last season's B division champion Mike Anton and veteran B driver Nilo Pazcoguin moved up, joining Miguel Ramirez and Mike Aguilar in the battle for A Division. Fresh from the 2002 SVI Challenge Cup, Monching Gutierrez joins the grid in B Division, while sophomore driver John Sambo joins the ranks of Super Saloon C.
In the qualifying session for the Blaze Super Saloon Series, it was Mike Anton of Red Bull Racing who set the fastest laptime sending him to the front of the grid for the opening race weekend. Anton set a 1:30.594-laptime in the 11th lap besting the time set by defending champion Jody Coseteng of Red Horse-Caltex. Coseteng set his best time in lap 6 at 1:30.957 giving him second spot in the starting grid behind Anton. In third pole was Kookie Ramirez of Petron SRA who clocked in at 1:31.236.
At the start of the first round, it was polesitter Mike Anton of Red Bull Racing and Jody Coseteng of Red Horse-Caltex touching sides with Coseteng into turn 1. A very good start for Louis Ramirez who slingshot himself three positions up getting for 5th position. Anton got ahead of Coseteng and led through the bus-stop chicane. As they approached the hairpin turn 10 after the back straight, Anton overshot the turn giving Coseteng the lead. Quickly regaining control and defending position against Kookie Ramirez of Petron SRA, Anton again lost control going into the chicane turn 13. Anton apparently had problems with his car as it ran like a raging bull into turns. Anton who was literally all over the track, went into the pits in lap 2 to have his car checked. "My accelerator pedal was stuck, it was as if I didn't have brakes at all," said Anton.
With Anton out of their backs, Coseteng and Ramirez battled it out in front. In lap 3, Miguel Ramirez decided to retire from the race due to mechanical problems. Mike Aguilar of Auto Solutions Racing followed in far third, as Louis Ramirez of Petron SRA followed closely. Kookie Ramirez continued to hound Coseteng and eventually passed Coseteng in the chicane turn 13. Bent on getting ahead, Nilo Pazcoguin of Caltex Havoline carefully climbed from the back getting ahead of Francis Godinez in lap 8.
Anton who still had problems with his car entered the pits again in lap, 6 further pushing him to the back of the grid. Two laps later, 3rd position runner Aguilar entered the pits after experiencing problems. Aguilar went out for another lap only to discontinue and retire the next lap.
Pazcoguin climbed up another position as he took Gutierrez in lap 10, and later overtaking Bon in the last lap. Up in front, Kookie Ramirez continued to extend his lead finishing 5-seconds over Coseteng. In far third was Louis Ramirez running more than 12-seconds behind. At the back was lone C driver John Sambo who leisurely cruised down the track to claim his Class C win.
Polesitter Mike Anton made a good start in round 2 as he led the way from turn one through the first lap ahead of Jody Coseteng. Entering turn 1 in the second lap, Coseteng made an overtaking attempt on Anton but overshot instead. Anton made a classic overtaking maneuver on Coseteng on the inside line. Coseteng ended up touching Anton's car pinning the doors side-by-side. Anton managed to get away ahead of Coseteng. But Kookie Ramirez in near third started to prepare for his overtaking maneuver which he made on the hairpin to take the lead.
With Ramirez leading the pack, Anton tried to defend his position against Coseteng. But the continuous hounding of Coseteng took 2nd away from Anton. Anton continued to get farther behind Coseteng as he was apparently having problems with his car due to the contact with Coseteng in lap 2. Meanwhile, just behind the top three, it was a battle for 4th between Monching Gutierrez of Dickies Racing and Louis Ramirez of Petron SRA. Frenchman Dominic Bon who struggled in the race as he had to start from the pitlane retired from the race after 7 laps with a broken windscreen.
In lap 10, Anton touched the tires in the bus-stop and was given a stop-and-go penalty dropping him down to 5th behind Gutierrez and Louis Ramirez. Coseteng was able to overtake Kookie Ramirez as he pulled to the side entering turn 15.
Anton, bent on getting to the top three, quickly climbed up to 4th over Gutierrez by the next lap and slowly closed in on Louis Ramirez to take him on lap 14. Miguel Ramirez who was hounding John Sambo for the whole race was able to take Sambo also on lap 14. The race finished with Coseteng in front ahead of Kookie Ramirez by 9.6-seconds. Mike Anton ended up in third and first in class A.
SVI Challenge Cup
In the first round of the SVI Challenge Cup, Dela Merced took charge as she blazed through turn one ahead of David. The two ran closely for the whole race. It was generally a clean and exciting race. Peewee Mendiola of Havoline Racing dropped out of the race as he crashed in turn three damaging his wheel and later breaking his wheel studs. A notable race for novice driver Daryl Flores of Auto Solutions Racing as he ran in the top five positions, he was unfortunately disqualified in the post-race scrutineering for ride height.
An action packed race near the back of the order as Dong Garcia and Dennis Uy of Velocity Motors exchanged positions in the race. Making a comeback after a not so good debut season in the Super Saloon series, Dominic Tan struggled in the first 3 laps when he crashed into the bus-stop but managed to slowly climb up to 6th position by lap 6. Struggling at the back of the grid in his debut race, Arpee Manhit of Havoline Racing managed to finish 3rd in the novice class with teammate Mendiola's dropout early in the race.
In the second round of the SVI Challenge Cup, a slight turn of the table as David pulled away at the start of the race leading through lap 4. Pandemonium struck in lap 3 where several cars crashed into each other. Bon, Francisco, Tan, Mendiola and Uy ended up smashing their cars against each other with two ending up on the wall. Uy managed to recover, but Tan who got front, and rear ended retired from the race after 2 laps.
Menchie Francisco of Petron SVI retired on the next lap. Bon entered the pits in lap 5 as he was black flagged for a loose front bumper which had to be removed for the safety of his competitors. Dropping 4 positions down, Bon was unable to regain lost time and stayed in the back for the rest of the race.
Tail-ender Arpee Mahit decided to drop out of the race on lap 7 after running with mechanical problems. Dela Merced managed to get ahead of David in lap 5 but only managed to hold on to her lead until lap 8. David pulled away until the checkered flag. Oscar Aguilar of Havoline Racing consistently drove himself to a 3rd place finish. Novice driver Daryl Flores made a good enough debut race weekend as he finished 4th.