Sixty-two of the country's best off-roaders competed at the 1st ever Du Pont 4x4 Battle of the Champions held on October 22-23 at the Frontera Verde Tiendesitas hosted by the Suzuki 4x4 Club of the Philippines. The competitors comprised mostly of 4x4 clubs from Luzon with 2 clubs representing Mindanao, they were the CDO Off-Road Club and the Mt. Apo Off-Roaders Association from Kidapawan City.
NAsFOR Driver of the year points leader Albert Monte de Ramos was determined to do well and seal the deal in the driver's championship and take it in style. The Bicol Off-Roaders meanwhile, was well represented to make sure they secure their NAsFOR Team fo the Year title.
Monte De Ramos showed his determination when he finished Track A in 2m25.10s, almost 10 seconds quicker than Masa Hikiba of the Land Cruiser Club of the Philippines. Hikiba meanwhile, merely got a hairline seven tenths of a second over Hirryan Mendiola (son of 2005 Rainforest Challenge representative Larry Mendiola) of the Angeles City 4Wheelers who wanted to show that he had a few tricks up his sleeve as well. Larry Alberto of Team Helix/Suzuki 4x4 Club and Alvin Yuboco of Bicol Off-Road Club/Team Shell rounded up the Top 5 finishers for Track A.
Hirryan Mendiola further showed his skills in Track B, setting the pace at 3m33.12s which was more than six seconds ahead of Zaldy Fernando of the Del Monte 4Wheelers. Mendiola's time also got him into the top seed for final round with a margin of over 20 seconds. Totin Macmang of the CDO Off-Road Club figured in third, while Roger Peyra (Bicol Off-Road Club/Team Shell) and Cocoy Ramos (Balayan Off-Road Club) rounded up the top 5 in 4th and 5th respectively.
The competition was about to be decided as the treacherous tracks were to be combined to form a Track C for the final round wherein the top 20 competitors were to run and decide who gets to be the champion of champions. All eyes were on the top 5 ranked drivers who would be the ones competing for the podium spots. They were Hirryan Mendiola, Totin Macmang, Roger Peyra, Albert Monte De Ramos, and Zaldy Fernando.
The relatively long Track C was composed of rock crawling, a mudpit, table tops, v-canals, more rocks, and the deciding reverse horseshoe wherein drivers had to maneuver a u-turn in reverse before the cross the final stretch towards the finish line.
Lucky number one was Larry Alberto, who incidentally was also Track C's first DNF victim as his truck suffered from a broken front axle which caught up with him in the mudpit. Next up was Jeremie Lo (Bicol Off-Road Club/Team Shell), who had a more fortunate experience with the track and went to finish with a 7m53.84s time which would end up still in the top 10 times for the track.
Hard as it may have seemed, more than half of the competitors showed their champion skills finishing the track well under the allowed time of 15 minutes. Perhaps the most commendable of all would be Roger Peyra who still managed to finished with a broken propeller shaft from midway through the race, which meant that he was only able to run in two-wheel drive on such a difficult track. This also eliminated any chance of Peyra getting into the top 3. A very disappointing race however for John Sambo of the Manila Off-Roaders Inc., who rolled his truck over as he was about to exit the reverse horseshoe obstacle which was merely seconds away from the finish line. Another disappointing run was that of top seeded Hirryan Mendiola whose vehicle decided to stall due to electrical problems in the middle of the mudpit. Luckily they were able to restart the vehicle, but the time lost removed all his chances for the top prize.
The most impressive runs however came from CDO Off-Road Club's dynamic duo Tontin Macmang and Albert Monte De Ramos. Macmang's run was the most amusing as the two even waited just before the finish line to joke around with time to spare. However, in the darkness, Noel Bartolome Jr. pulled off a 'magical run' navigating through the pitch black track conditions with more eyes than can be imagined. The youngster eclipsed the time of Macmang by more than 10 seconds.
Macmang still went on to win first place in the 1st ever Du Pont Battle of the Champions which will always be in the record books. Teammate Monte De Ramos was meanwhile second, which is a welcome addition to his NAsFOR National Driver of the Year Award. Zaldy Fernando took home third overall to wrap up the podium. Other top ten finishers of the event supported by ENOC Lubricants, Highland Trading, Davies Paints, Asia United Bank, Asian Spirit, Red Bull, Super Bowl of China, Ride Inc., A-toy Body Kits,Concept One, Xenon-Bulbs, Bilstein, Premiere Ready-mix, and AutoIndustriya.com were --- Noel Bartolome Jr of LCCP in 4th; Ramon Uy of Bicol Off-road Club in 5th; Cocoy Ramos of Balayan Off-road Club settled for 6th; Jeremie Lo of Bicol Off-Road Club in 7th; Sherwin Catameo of LCCP in 8th, Joey Millonado of Team Caltex-San Jose del Monte 9th; and Hirryan Mendiola of Angeles City 4Wheelers in 10th.
"We commend the Suzuki 4x4 Club for organizing a successful event. Their efforts and the designer of the course have tested anew the driving skills of Filipino drivers," said Erwin Diadula, DuPont's sales manager, adding that they look forward in sustaining their partnership with other Suzuki 4x4 Club.
Henry Dee, President of Suzuki 4x4 Club of the Philippines for his part expressed gratitude to the competitors, sponsors and fans for supporting the event. "We hope that our economy will improve in the coming years so that Suzuki 4x4 Club of the Philippines can continue to stage events like this. Such events, give an avenue to Filipino drivers to display their competitiveness and the camaraderie among 4x4 clubs."