Who can ever forget their first day of running on the track? Back in the day, most just winged it. Whether it be taking corners in the worst way possible or not giving a single centavo about skills and how they must be practiced and honed, some drivers essentially had to do with what they only know. Some of us, however, are fortunate enough to find someone who knows what he’s doing and is more than willing to share his knowledge openly.
In our day, that man was this guy from Japan with his recognizable broken Tagalog, complete with a (still-thick) Japanese accent. When I first met him, I was like “Wow, Nihon-Jin! Wow, he’s a pretty happy guy, huh? He must do this as a hobby”. I was wrong, it wasn’t just a hobby, it was a passion. It was life. And as he was in life, we remember all the great stuff that came with his Pooh bear persona.
One such memory comes from a friend in Honda Club. He remembers how his brakes felt off in a grid race which prompted a consult with Team ForcedSpeed. He returned to a scolding:
“Ikaw gusto na pakamatay? Ikaw dalawa na pleno mo upak ka pa ng upak! Isa pleno harap at isa likod stuck up na. Sila Jeff gawa paran pero wag mo sagad pleno. Ikaw aga pleno turn 1 kung ikaw takbo pa. Alalay mo lang.”
His car survived the race, and so did he. Because when Pooh speaks, one listens.
Another incident that comes to mind is when a lot of spectators in the S.I.R. pits and paddocks saw a most unusual sight: a taxi, complete with its roof rail “TAXI” light running around the track. Of course, a lot of them, myself included, laughed at it. And then we saw who was driving, and we all eagerly waited for its time. If memory serves me right, it clocked in at about a minute flat. Seriously, a taxi cab?! Well, if you knew who was behind the wheel, you’d say that’s about as real as it could get.
There was also one quiet moment, this time in Batangas Racing Circuit, where we found our guy not in his usual place in the pits, but at the grandstand – sulking.
“Ang guray ko, wara na guray ko,” he said.
“Guray? Ah, gulay! Bakit, gagawa ka ba ng salad?” our friend said.
To this, he looks at us wide-eyed, and with frustration in his voice said “Sarad?! Hindi! FARMVIR! Hidi ko nakuha guray ko! Wara na guray ko!”
Farmville. Yes, he was sad about his virtual crop. And we all stood there, shocked, and proceeded to laugh about 5 seconds later, including himself.
Personally, I wasn’t always the fastest on track, nor did I have a quick car. And I remember asking him in the shop how I could improve my time. He was always there, watching, observing, and he simply told me:
“Ganito papa_boss. Dapat kuha mo hairping ganito,” – while imitating how much input I need to give the wheel and the brake pedal – “ganito rang rarim ng apak mo pleno, tapos riko mo manibera ungti-ungti. Ganyang muna, sigurado improve oras mo.”
I took this and all of his other tips to heart, and at the end of the day, I improved my time by, I kid you not, 2.6 seconds.
In recent years, I haven’t seen much of our guy. If memory serves me right, the last time I was in the paddocks of Clark International Speedway, he was in deep conversation with his racing team about how the car should be driven after a round of (re-) building. I waved at him, he saw me, he smiled, nodded, and went right back into strategizing. Yup, he was always where he wanted to be and needed to be: at a race, in the pits or paddocks, analyzing, observing, teaching.
Until the last, that’s still where he was. Until he had to be rushed to the hospital for one of the worst reasons possible, his presence was there for everyone to see, feel, and cheer on even while he was confined. As fate would have it, the race gods might have needed a good driver and a better person, and he left us with a gaping void, but with full hearts and minds of lessons and memories that we will always hold dear.
In our day, that man was this guy from Japan. And his name was Tetsuya Omura. And now, he has gone to the endless racetracks beyond.
For all that you’ve done, for all that you’ve taught us, and for all that you are, arigatou gozaimasu, Tetsuya Sensei! Mata aimashou!