The Clark International Speedway was the venue for the first round of the 2016 Vios Cup and offered excitement in every corner from green to checkered flag. The races also saw saw different winners in each class, with Andres Calma out to defend his title in the top level category. As previously mentioned, the fastest drivers from the Sporting and Promotional class now move up to the Super Sporting class, bringing the competition levels higher than from the last two seasons.
Super Sporting Class
Qualifying saw Daniel Miranda take pole position with a time of 2:25.579. Posting the second fastest time was Estefano Rivera who clocked in at 2:25.733. Last year's Sporting Class champ, Andres Calma, was close behind at 2:25.811.
Come race day, Miranda was able to hold on to the lead as the lights went green but not for long. Second placer Rivera had a sightly better launch, allowing him to catch up to Miranda by the first turn. Calma on other hand slipped to fifth, allowing Toyota Quezon Avenue team mates Allan Uy and Dominic Ochoa to take third and fourth respectively. On the second lap however, Calma went on a recovery drive and overtook the TQA team mates to take third and was now tailing the rear bumper of Miranda.
Miranda soon conceded second place to Calma who was consistently posting quick times throughout the race. By the third lap, Calma was able to draft Miranda on the long straight just before the first turn. He eventually dived on the inside, forcing Miranda to the outside. While all of these were happening, the rest of the field stayed relatively unmoved.
Throughout the third lap, Calma was piling on the pressure on Rivera, shadowing every move the latter made. Calma then made his move the next lap in turn one and drove away from the rest of the field from there. By the end of the race, Calma had a 7.7 second gap from Rivera. Finishing third was Daniel Miranda and rounding up the top 5 in the first race in Super Sporting were TQA team mates Allan Uy and Dominic Ochoa.
For race two of Super Sporting, grid positions were based on the finishing order of the first race, meaning Calma starting on pole with Rivera alongside him. With the top three carrying success ballast, Calma, Rivera and Miranda were a little slower off the line and on the main straight. Capitalizing on the extra weight was Allan Uy, who carried no ballast for finishing fourth in the first race. The top finishers were then three wide just before turn one with Allan Uy and Rivera taking the top spots by the time they reached the corkscrew. By then, it was a three horse race between Miranda, Calma and Dumlao for third place.
The top five would be shuffled yet again after Acacia when Dumlao made contact with Miranda, sending the latter sideways and making Calma go off-road and take evasive maneuvers to avoid getting collected in the scuffle. Because of the incident, the rest of the field tangled with each other with Ronquillo getting sandwiched between two cars, losing his front bumper and ending up with a noticeably shorter Vios afterwards. Ronquillo was able to proceed despite the damage.
The impact that sent Miranda sideways took effect on Dumlao's car, dropping him out of contention for the top five. Tanjuatco initially took advantage of the scuffle after Acacia corner but was quickly overtaken by Basti Escalante, Calma and Miranda who was able to recover after his Vios was sent sideways. Allan Uy was then able to overtake Rivera on the inside of the big loop while the rest of the field bunched up behind them. Despite the ballast in his car, Calma was soon able to join the battle for the lead and was able to snatch second from Rivera in the hairpin after the Porsche straight.
On the fifth lap, Dominic Ochoa had an off in the first turn, bringing out the safety car and bunching the field up again. When racing resumed, it was Miranda and Rivera fighting for third in the closing laps with Escalante lurking behind should an incident happen between the two. Meanwhile in front, Uy was defending hard against Calma in the remaining laps but all his efforts paid off when he finally crossed the line after 12 laps. The fight for third was still intense with Miranda and Rivera diving on each other. Miranda made a lunge in the double apex, snatching third just before the checkered flag waved. This dropped Rivera to fourth with Escalate rounding up the top five.
For the Sporting class, Miko Maristela took pole position with a time of 2:27.988, followed by Sam YG, promoted from celebrity class, posting a best time of 2:28.347. Alexis Salvador finished his qualifying session by posting the third best time of the day at 2:28.372. Setting the fourth fastest time was Paolo Rodriguez clocking in at 2:28.422 and completing the top five is another driver promoted from celebrity class, Phoemela Baranda, with a time of 2:28.579.
Miko Maristela stumbled at the start of the race, handing the lead to Sam YG and dropping back to as far as fourth. Sam YG led the promotional class into the first turn, followed by Salvador and Rodriguez. Baranada meanwhile was punted from behind, sending her into a slide and lost valuable time while recovering. Still unable to recover from the slow start was Maristela, who at this point dropped even further to ninth. Taking the top 3 spots in the early part of the race was Sam YG, Salvador and Rodriguez.
Meanwhile at the middle of the pack, Robert Lilles and Sean Velasco were slowly moving forward from their tenth and eleventh place starting position, taking advantage of the turn 4 incident involving Baranda and were slowly picking off drivers at every overtaking opportunity. Last year's promotional champion, Miguel Diaz, was also climbing slowly for the top five.
A major shake up in the race happened towards the closing laps. By this time, Salvador had closed the gap between him and Sam YG. Salvador then made a move on Sam YG in the first turn but ended up colliding with the leader, sending Sam YG into a spin. Salvador briefly held the lead but the damage to his car had an effect on its performance, meaning Toyota San Fernando's Paolo Rodriguez caught up with him and eventually took the lead from that moment on. From then on, Salvador was moving backwards through the field. The opposite was happening to pole-sitter Maristela, who lost the lead with a botched start. He was able to overtake Lilles in fifth and Diaz in fourth while Sean Velasco made a significant leap from his original starting position. Velasco and Maristela were soon fighting for second place but Maristela held on while Velasco finished third. Diaz finished fourth while Lilles finished fifth.
With the finishing order determining the starting positions for race 2, it was Rodriguez taking the top spot with Maristela in second and Velasco in third. With heavier cars, the three had a slightly slower start compared to the rest of the field, as a result, Miguel Diaz was able to catch up to Rodiguez and Maristela but not Velasco who had a better start. Meanwhile, Sam YG was a man on a mission, trying to improve on his ninth place finish in the first race. For this race, it would be Salvador and Sam YG who made heavy contact yet again but this time, it was Salvador who was on the receiving end. Sam YG slammed hard into the rear of Salvador's car which then sent the latter into a half spin as they were battling for third place. Sam YG retired from the race on the fifth lap while Salvador limped his car throughout the race and finishing several laps down. While all eyes were on the collision, Miguel Diaz sneaked past Velasco for the lead and led the remainder of the race.
The rest of the race happened without incident bar a few drivers scraping each other's fenders for position. With clean air ahead of him, Miguel Diaz took the win with Velasco in second place. Taking third was Maristela, followed by Steve Bicknell. Rodriguez, sent to the middle of the field during the rush of the opening laps, was unable to overcome the success ballast and finished fifth.
The Promotional class and Celebrity class were combined for this round and taking pole was Jinno Rufino, leading the mixed grid. Setting the second fastest time was Marc Martinez.
When the race started, Jinno Rufino took lead for the celebrity class but jumped the start, ending up with a 15 second penalty which was applied after the race. Still, Rufino kept his car ahead of the pack, ahead of rookie Aira Medrano and Marc Martinez. Trouble happened in turn four when Joyce Pring was tagged from behind. The impact sent her car into the sand trap and forcing her out of the race.
Back in front, Rufino was slowly puling away from Martinez. There was also a battle brewing for second place between Medrano and Martinez but the latter was able to hold on for the Promotional class lead. The field was relatively unchanged from the start although Robert Lillias had a slight off in the eighth lap. He was able to carry on racing.
Even though Rufino crossed the line first, the earlier jump start cost him the overall win but still took the crown for the Celebrity class. The overall win was handed to Marc Martinez, winning both the race and the Promotional class, followed by Bobby Pangilinan in second and Vios Cup debutante Evelyn Coseteng in third.
As mentioned above, Rufino took the win for the Celebrity class, followed by Fabio Ide in second and Vios Cup rookie Jericho Rosales in third.
Avoiding the mistake he made in the first race, Jinno Rufino made sure that he got off the line at just the right moment. Rufino was able to time his launch just right and led the field for the entire race. Meanwhile in the Promotional class, Martinez got off to a good start with Toyota Cebu's Oscar Suarez, starting from fourth in the Promotional class, tailing him closely. Martinez would be unable to hold the lead for long. Oscar Suarez made his move on the leader in the second lap, diving on Martinez in Acacia corner. From then on, Martinez would slowly move back through the field. Second place would be inherited by Medrano.
Medrano however wouldn't be able to hold on to second. Medrano was tagged from behind while defending second, spinning her out at the bottom of the corkscrew. Medrano recovered but not before letting everyone on the track passing her. Taking second place from Medrano was Coseteng, who was on her way to her second podium in her Vios Cup debut.
The rest of the race carried on without incident apart from one moment where Rufino took the “big loop” corner sideways. By the end of the race, Rufino had crossed the line first, giving him his first win in a mixed-grid race, followed by Oscar Suarez and Evelyn Coseteng. The winning the promotional class was Suarez with Coseteng in second. Third place was awarded to Bobby Pangilinan. Completing the top five were Kiko Dysico and race 1 winner Marc Martinez. Rufino took the win for the celebrity class, followed by Fabio Ide in second and Joyce Pring in third.
The third season of the Toyota Vios Cup marks the first season under new Toyota Motor Philippines' new president, Satoru Suzuki. While unable to race due to lack of seat time, Suzuki was looking forward to more practice with the race cars so he can join the grid by the second led. Despite that, Suzuki was enthusiastic throughout the event and it would appear that there will be more Vios Cup races in the future with TMP's new president.
The next round of Vios Cup Season 3 will be on May 21 to 22 on a street course in Filinvest, Muntinlupa City.