Better drivers on the road after 5 seasons of the Vios Cup


Gretchen Ho has “gone smarter” on the tracks.

The country’s leading car manufacturer Toyota Motor Philippines may have merely intended to put motorsports in the collective consciousness of the auto industry, after having run its grassroots-oriented Vios Cup for five seasons already. But then again, there may have been an unintended consequence, and it’s all good, because the Vios Cup may have also put better drivers on public roads.

Take, for example, TV personality and volleyball superstar Gretchen Ho, one of the celebrity racers in the just-concluded 5th season of the Vios Cup, the third and final leg of which was held Sept. 21 and 22 at the Clark International Speedway in Pampanga.

Ho, who finished third in her class, said that she had matured a lot in her driving since she joined the Vios Cup and embraced the training program it entailed.

“I call it controlled aggression, and it’s a good thing. I think the top racers have that,” she pointed out.

She added that in her training, and during the actual races, she learned when to give it her all, and when to hold back to let others pass.

“I’ve developed that skill to make decisions on the spot. I also learned not to give it your all before the actual race, so that I have more to give when it comes to game time,” she explained.

Smarter on the track

She likewise observed that she had “gone smarter” on the track while gaining a better appreciation for motorsports.

Ho said: “I have a lot of respect for the motorsports athletes. They put in a lot of hard work. I feel it’s a real athlete’s game. I have also matured a lot in terms of learning how to deal with pressure, in terms of learning when to give it my best, and my all, and when to just relax and chill.”

Ho said she learned to drive using a manual transmission car. “My parents wanted me to learn driving from the basics, that in case of an emergency, and there was only a manual car available, I would be able to drive that manual car. That skill came in handy because it made me a lot more confident on the road. Now, with the Vios Cup, there was the chance to race with the manual.”

Passionate about racing

Not many are aware that actor Jose Dominique M. Ochoa has been a passionate member of the Filipino motorsports community for 18 years running.

He has been racing for Team Toyota Quezon Avenue for as long as the Vios Cup has existed.

Last year, Ochoa stood out after piling up the accolades, bagging Driver of the Day, Slingshot King (by jumping nine spots up in a race), and Overall Champion.

In the recent final race, Ochoa dominated once more in the elite Super Sporting Class where he emerged the winner. And he did so with class, with everyone in the VIP media room applauding this gentleman racer’s achievement, as well as his clean and disciplined approach to the game.

Like Ho, Ochoa has shown extraordinary “zen” qualities during races.

Ochoa flanked by fellow racers Gerard Loy (left) and Keith Bryan Haw.

Always patient, never overeager to pass (in the vernacular, hindi gigil), Ochoa shows that taking it nice and steady can also lead to winning the race and the audience’s hearts.

For him, winning isn’t everything. “One thing I like with our boss and the TQA team is I never feel any pressure to win. Not that we don’t want the title. It’s more of having fun and being safe all the time. We are promoting clean but competitive racing here, and I think we were able to prove that. Respect your team, your fellow racers and yourself. With that in mind, you are already a winner.”

Ochoa added, “In racing, there’s a lot of uncertainties. One thing I’ve learned is how to respond to things I can and cannot control. Just trust your instinct and be patient. You’ll get there.”

Ochoa said that he drives everyday, and that, despite the hassles of traffic, he still loves driving.

Racing on the tracks—either in Clark for the Vios Cup or in some other circuit—has actually helped him lessen substantially the need for speed on public roads.

“No more racing for me on the street. What I do now is to make sure I leave the house 30 minutes to an hour earlier for an appointment or call time, so I don’t get stressed when driving. Never mind if I’m early. I just don’t like people to wait. And also I bring along a sack of patience … you know why,” he quipped.

Ochoa started his racing career with karting in 2000. Then he tried the one-make series of Tuason Racing School in 2002.

In 2003, he began a seven-year hiatus from racing to focus on his show business career.

Afterwards, he started racing again, first in the Philippine Autocross Series, then in the Historic Racing Series of MSCC from 2012 onwards.

It was in 2014 when Team TQA offered him a spot to run in the first edition of the Vios Cup Series.

Skills in the real world

The Vios Cup has also imparted valuable skills to its participants, skills that would serve them well in real world driving.

Carlo Ablaza, AVP for the Lexus Brand (Lexus is the luxury vehicle division of Toyota), said that some of the celebrities, especially the female ones, didn’t even know how to drive a manual transmission car before joining the Vios Cup.

“After the Vios Cup races, because of the stringent training of the Tuason Racing School, they now know how to operate a car properly and safely. They know how to race, and more importantly, how to drive safely,” he explained.

Ablaza even observed that some of the neophytes exhibited anger management issues on the road before they joined the Vios Cup.

“After racing with us, after learning the discipline of becoming a race car driver, their perspectives and on-road behavior changed. All their aggression are spent on the track, and they’re now driving safer on public roads. Maybe, we have turned them into better drivers,” Ablaza said.

TMP president Satoru Suzuki said that the Vios Cup has leveled up the reputation of the compact sedan itself.

“The Vios Cup has established the image of the Vios as a safe, durable car even with the accidents happening on the race track. The Vios Cup just adds more fun, emotion, and more excitement to the capabilities of the vehicle,” he said.

TMP SVP Jose Maria Atienza assessed: “We are happy with the results of the Vios Cup. It’s something that we built for five years, from nothing to something like this. We really didn’t know how to run such a thing (during the first year). The last time we did this was the Corolla Cup in the 1990s. The scale of that and of the Vios Cup are totally different.”

“With the Vios in motorsports, not only were we able to prove it as a bestseller, a family, a corporate, or a teenager’s car. It can also be a race car. It’s a nice, complete story,” he added.

Cristina Fe N. Arevalo, TMP FVP for brand and product planning, looks at the five-year story of the Vios Cup as an investment of sorts. “We don’t see it as a loss, we look at it as an investment in motorsports, in building motorsports industries, especially grassroots racing, because Toyota is the very first car company that has introduced grassroots motorsports racing.”

The Vios one-make race uses the 1.5G manual transmission variant of the previous model, fitted with several TRD modifications on the intake, exhaust, suspension and racing standard safety equipment.

The race kit is available only for those who participate in the race, and is not an additional variant to the current lineup.

The racing add-ons include clutch cover, clutch disc, limited slip differential, sport brake pad, muffler set, upper mount (front), suspension set, roll cage, finer hood, trunk lid, and rotor disc brakes.

Also added are the intake system, TRD aerokits, hood lock pin, bucket seats, seat bracket, and 6-point seatbelt, among others.

The race classifications are Super Sporting, Sporting, Promotional, and Celebrity.

Ablaza revealed that each classification comes with its own weight reduction allowances.

For the Promotional and Celebrity classes, the starting weight is 1,150 kg.

Upgrading to Sporting Class makes the car lighter at 1,100 kg. This can be done by, as an example, removing power window motors in the door sidings.

The Super Sporting Class Vios can weigh as little as 1,050 kg, using more lightweight hood and trunk lids, TRD rotor disc, TRD brakes and exhaust upgrades. The power steering compressor and pump, as well as the door sidings and the mechanism for the power windows may have to be sacrificed, as well.

But what little conveniences these drivers have sacrificed to shave off more milliseconds from their lap times are more than made up by the wisdom they’ve gained keeping those killer speeds and racing urges on the race track and off public roads.

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