Cebu was the venue for the staging of the 2nd leg of the Caltex Delo Sports National 4x4 Extreme Series. Dubbed the Cebu Mud Challenge, the event attracted more than 40 participants but some of which later backed out because they were intimidated by the insane tracks designed by the Cebu Off-Road Club. As a result, only 37 brave souls from different clubs across the country dared to challenge the tracks.
The festivities started Friday on the traditional fellowship night with the host club preparing a sumptous meal highlighted by Cebu's famous Lechon. A slight drizzle late in the night also made the track more interesting, as it moistened the soil a bit. And as the sun rose Saturday morning, it was time for exciting off-road action. Championship leaders Richard Emano, Robert Abas and Timtom Gempesaw were expected to put out a good show as they prepare to score more points to determine the 2004 Driver of the Year.
Insane was just a proper name for the tracks as it will intimidate even the seasoned off-roader. The short but very technical track was composed of mudpits, deep-water crossing, table tops, v-canal, and uneven potholes. The treacherous track was so intimidating, that a several competitors pulled-out with the uncertainty of finishing the race. Only 10 out of the 37 competitors were able to complete all three tracks. Many did not finish, some did not even run at all due to mechanical problems. Both tracks were almost identical differing only in a few obstacles. The objective was clear, it was to make the driver, spotter and winchman function together as a team.
The treacherous Track A claimed several participants with getting stuck in the deep water canal which eventually became a mudpit going up to the table top and the v-canal after another mudpit. Treacherous as it may seem, 4Wheelers Davao's Timtom Gempesaw however made it look like a morning stroll in the park as he negotiated the track with a time of 1:17.50, to which the crowd roared to. Out of the total 17 drivers who finished, Bicol Off-Roaders' Jojo Prieto came in a close second to Gempesaw's time with a 1:20.19 in the afternoon as he drove like a madman after a disappointing Track B run in the moring. Clocking in 3rd was 67-year old Johnny Ferrazzini of 4Wheelers Davao with 1:37.59 besting some of the younger drivers and capping off the sub two minute runs.
Equally difficult, Track B allowed fewer competitors to finishers with only 14 managing to finish. Most of the competitors found themselves devoured by the mudpit which turned some competitors into mudmen and covered their vehicles with mud to match. Setting the best time for the track was 1st leg champion Richard Emano of the CDO Off-Road Club with a 1:25.93. Second best time was Timtom Gempesaw whose time puts him up in the leaderboard going into the finals with a 1:30.56 giving him a 53 second lead over Emano. Third best time was Robert Abas of the CDO Off-Road Club with 1:34.53. Rey Samonte of the Unlimited Off-Road Dipolog set a very good time as well with 1:44.10 taking 4th. Bacolod Off-Roaders' Bobby Orbista capped off the sub 2-minute runs with a time of 1:53.63 for 5th spot.
To complicate things further for the participants, the final round was run on a combination of Track A and B wherein competitors had to start from Track A and go into the exit route of Track B. Only half of the Top 20 drivers managed to finish the track. But coming as a surprise was Rey Samonte who could do no wrong as he literally conquered the track in 1:47.10 without even using his winch. His precise driving send the crowd into an uproar as they cheered and applauded his spectacular run. Coming in a far second almost 2-minutes behind was Timtom Gempesaw who clocked in at 3:44.12. Third best time for Track C was a 3:51.57 set by Albert Monte De Ramos of the CDO Off-Roaders. Jojo Prieto didn't expect to get far, but his 5:55.25 undeinably gets him a 4th best run in the final round. A 6-minute final round run by Richard Emano literally handed over the championship to Gempesaw.
The Top 5 total scores were then computed and as the results came out it was none other than Timtom Gempesaw of 4Wheelers Davao emerging victorious and getting on top of the leaderboard for the 2004 NAsFOR Driver of the Year standings. Coming in second was CDO Off-Road Club's Richard Emano who slides down behind Gempesaw in the Driver of the Year race. Unlimited Off-Road Dipolog pilot Rey Samonte's spectacular Track C run catapulted him to third spot ahead of Richard Sy of the Manila Off-Roaders, Inc. While Jojo Prieto of the Bicol Off-Roaders, earned a well deserved 5th place to round up the Top 5.
The effectiveness of NAsFOR deputized race marshals and NAsFOR safety requirements were put to a test in this round as a winch cable break did not cause any accidents due to dampening cloth requirement for winching. Presence of mind and properly equipped marshals are to be credited for getting 67-year old Johnny Ferrazzini out of the mud pit as his vehicle went down due to a miscalculation. Two marshals immediately jumped into the mudpit to assist the crew of Ferrazzini while the other marshals secured the area to facilitate for the extraction of the vehicle from the mudpit.
"These incidents truly prove that safety procedures, be the extra efforts exerted are necessary to ensure that there are no untoward accidents which will undermine the growth of the sport. After all we want to be off-roading for a lifetime," said NAsFOR Race Director Brian Diaz.