The hardcore national off-road season officially kicked-off as the 4Wheelers Davao Association Inc. (4WDAI), hosted the first leg of the Caltex Delo Sports National 4x4 Extreme Series at the Damosa Racetrack in Lanang, Davao City. Dubbed as the 6th Davao 4xFun Off-Road Challenge, the annual event also coincided with the celebrations of Davao City's founding anniversary. "The Damosa Racetrack is currently the only privately owned off-road track with well-appointed facilities," said Mr. Peter Go of the 4WDAI.
The NAsFOR event saw the implementation of new safety regulations which included sanctioned event marshals and ran under the observation of AAP (Automobile Association of the Philippines) representative Jun Espino. "We want to professionalize the way races are organized and bring safety standards to new levels. Not that we're saying the way we organized races was not safe, but we want to further improve the races to make it safer and more enjoyable for the competitors, spectators, and the sponsors as well," explained Mr. Ramon To-Ong NAsFOR Executive Adviser. Mr. To-Ong went on to add that, four-wheeling is a growing motorsport and we want it to grow in the right way so that our future off-roaders will enjoy the sport as well.
Thirty-five brave competitors from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao arrived at the Damosa track to challenge the most extreme off-road course for the opener of the national championship series. National Champions Robert Abbas (2003), and hometown favorite Timtom Gempesaw (2002) were among the brave competitors were at the opener. Incidentally, Gempesaw was champion in the 4th and 5th 4xFun Off-Road Challenge and was gunning for his third consecutive title. There was also a guest competitor from who participated in the event, Australian Tuff Truck Challenge competitor Rodney McCormack, who drove Anton Lagdameo's Chester Jeep. Many found the course to be extreme prompting some competitors to withdraw from the competition because they were intimidated by the track.
The treacherous tracks were composed of mud pits, deep-water crossing, log crossing, tabletop, log trap, v-canals, chocolate hills, drop dead, rock crawling, and uneven potholes. The treacherous track was so intimidating, that several competitors pulled-out with the uncertainty of finishing the race. True enough, only 6 out of the 35 competitors were able to completely finish all three tracks up to the final round. Some either had one DNF (did not finish) or didn't finish a track at all. A total of 15,000 watts of halogen lighting illuminated the track until the last competitor in the elimination round on Saturday.
Track A saw several participants getting stuck in the v-canal, uneven potholes, and the log trap. The extreme track devoured several competitors but still, there 17 brave men who finished. Particularly a Suzuki Samurai with 31-inch tires driven by Rocke Selga of the Davao Eagles. The times were literally just a few seconds apart, three of Cagayan de Oro Off-Road Club's members were within 20 seconds, Robert Abbas would clock a 5:58.41, while Richard Emano with a 6:08.50, and Agustin Macmang clocking in at 6:10.72. In the end, it was Timtom Gempesaw of the 4Wheelers Davao who clocked the fastest time for the track at a blistering 4:17.40.
With only 10 competitors managing to finish, track B would prove to be a more difficult track making devour an understatement on what it did to race vehicles. The series of v-canals in the third section of obstacles claimed several competitors including seasoned veterans as well. The chocolate hills, which were the next section was equally if not more extreme claiming the most number of competitors. First to finish was Richard Emano of the Cagayan de Oro Off-Road Club, who incidentally was the first to run clocking in at 10:48.25. Emano's time stood in the top 3 of the Track B times. Seeing action in the race and finishing in Track B was 66-year old Johnny Ferrazzini on his newly built rig, a fully modified Eisenhower Jeep, which was not just a competition vehicle but was also a showstopper as it took home the "Show and Shine" award. Track A frontrunner Timtom Gempesaw could only muster a 12:09.87. However, it was 2004 Driver of the year Robert Abbas, now with Team Delo Sports, whose 10:07.25 run that made the best time for Track B to give him the lead.
Going into the final round in Track C at the top of the leaderboard was Abbas who was seen to engage in a neck and neck duel with hometown favorite Gempesaw. The advantage however was not with Gempesaw being the first to run on the track which was a combination of both Tracks A and a section of Track B, but in reverse. Nonetheless, Gempesaw's time was a good 9:45.50 run for the track. However, coming from behind was Richard Emano, whose consistent runs located him in the strategic 3rd spot on the leaderboard which saw the top contenders separate by a few seconds only. His 8-minute 44-second run gave him a clear one minute lead over Gempesaw's time early on in the competition. Abbas' run, unfortunately, wasn't as fast as he expected it to be, clocking in at 12:14.79 immediately taking him out of contention for the top two spots. Emano's time would remain unchallenged until the end of the day giving him his first national championship win.
The remaining top ten finishers were, Joey Salangsang (Gensan 4x4 Fun Club) 4th; Albert Monte de Ramos (CDO Off-Road Club) 5th; Agustin Macmang (CDO Off-Road Club) 6th; Nixon Go (Eagle Off-Roaders Davao) 7th; Boyong Alindao (Eagle Off-Roaders Davao) 8th; Michael Cerin (4Wheelers Davao) 9th; Toto Derequito (Eagle Off-Roaders Davao) 10th.
The implementation of the NAsFOR deputized race marshals was indeed a success as it was accepted with an open mind by the competitors and the rules were implemented properly. "The outcome was very encouraging and the competition ran smoothly, we hope to continue this standard and extend it to the local NAsFOR races as well," said NAsFOR Race Director Brian Diaz.
The Stocks on the Rocks, which is a concept that has been adapted from the Tough Truck Challenge 2003 was one of the side events in the 6th Davao 4xFun Off-Road Challenge. It is to be considered an introductory drive to the off-road world which consists of different obstacles that one will encounter when driving off-road. Several off-road enthusiasts tried their vehicles on the relatively easy course designed for beginners. A well-noted participant was celebrity Dawn Zulueta-Lagdameo, who drove an automatic transmission Toyota Land Cruiser Prado guided by her husband Anton Lagdameo.
The 6th Davao 4xFun National Off-Road Challenge was supported by Caltex Delo Sports, Selecta, Infocom, Globe Telecom, Bilstein, Merco, Simex Tires, Anflocor, Nenita Quality Foods, En-Sport Motors, Downey Davao, 199 Off-Road House, Ride Inc., Metrosound, Davao Light and Power Co., and the Department of Tourism. The Caltex Delo Sports National 4x4 Extreme Series travels to Cebu for its second leg in June.