As part of the celebrations for the annual Bicolandia Festival of their Patroness Lady of Penafrancia, the Bicol Off-Road Club hosted the 3rd Leg of the Caltex Delo Sports National 4x4 Extreme Series. The annual festival race dubbed the Isarog Challenge, on its 4th year, attracted a total 33 participants mostly composed of participants from Luzon who traveled to Naga City for some mud slinging action.
The traditional fellowship night with the host club preparing a sumptous meal was held at the Flamingo Hostel where race registration was also held. Particiapnts also took the time to socialize with their fellow off-roaders from different provinces. And as the sun rose Saturday morning, it was time for exciting off-road action. Absent in the third leg was Richard Emano and Robert Abas who were preoccupied with other matters. The championship race was therefore left to current standings leader Timtom Gempesaw and Albert Monte de Ramos who were expected to put out fireworks as the season nears its end to determine the 2004 Driver of the Year.
The releatively long track a was considered to be a driver's track. But more importantly teamwork should be in play at all times as the unpredicatable track eliminated all sorts and sizes as only a handful would finish it. The obstacles were composed of mudpits, 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 sent participants to an early leave with their vehicles rolling to the side in the v-canal and others getting stuck in the mudpit breaking their axles. Treacherous as it may seem, CDO Off-Road Club's Albert Monte De Ramos made it seem like a walk in the park as he set a blistering 2:00.98 elapsed time early on in the round which went unchallenged. Team DELO/LCCP's Noel Bartolome Sr. made a brave effort trying to beat Monte De Ramos' but was only able to manage a 2:50.17 relegating him to 2nd spot. Rounding up the Top 3 finishers in Track A was 4Wheelers Davao's Timtom Gempesaw with a time of 3:14.47.
On the simplier Track B, Monte De Ramos again set a heartstopping pace as he clocked in at 1:08.11 to get top spot and enter the final round in first seed. But the star of the track was Ramon Uy of the Bicol Off-Roaders who wowed the home crowd with a spectacular run on his Suzuki clocking in at 1:17.05 which literally sent the crowd on a roar as he crossed the finish line. Making it at third spot was hometown hero Roger Peyra of the Bicol Off-Roaders who clocked in at 1:24.71. Most of the competitors found their way through the track with ease with all finishers running under 10 minutes. Only five competitors were unable to finish due to winch problems and one was not able to start at all due to vehicle problem.
But the worst was not over for the competitors, for the final round, they were to run on a combination of Track A in reverse and half of Track B also in reverse. Out of the Top 20 drivers, 16 were able to finish the long and technical track. Never failing to surprise the crowd was once again Ramon Uy who again sent the crowd roaring as he set a blistering 3:07.51 with the smallest vehicle in the field which shows that size does not matter. His time went unchallenged for the remainder of the final round. Neil Andaya of the San Jose City Off-Roaders managed to finish in 2nd with a time of 3:29.25. Driver of the Year points leader Gempesaw not wanting to be outdone mustered a 3:57.09 run to take 3rd spot in the finals. An effortful run for Del Monte 4Wheelers' Rey Herrera for a well deserved 4th place clocking 4:07.23. Rounding up the Top 5 finishers for the finals was Albert Monte De Ramos, who only had to finish as consistently as his first two runs to take home the top prize.
The Top 5 total scores were then computed and as the results came out it was unanimously CDO Off-Road Club's Albert Monte De Ramos whose spectacular Track A and B runs gave him a minute and a half advantage over Timtom Gempesaw of 4Wheelers Davao who came in second place and still on top of the leaderboard for the 2004 NAsFOR Driver of the Year standings with a 72 point margin. Coming in third was Rey Herrera of the Del Monte 4Wheelers whose final round efforts paid off as he snatched a win right under Bartolome's nose with a mere 2-second advantage. Team Delo/LCCP's Noel Bartolome Sr. came in 4th overall, while Doug Leslie Hopkirk of the Ormoc 4Wheelers rounded up the Top 5 finishers.