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Motor Sport Stars and Dynasties

By Aida Sevilla-Mendoza Philippine Daily Inquirer December 04,2019

Pocholo Ramirez with his sons and daughter-in-law Menchie. Seated (left to right) are Kookie and Louie Ramirez,while standing (from left) are Menchie (Kookie’s wife), Georges, and Miguel Ramirez. PHOTO COURTESY OF GEORGES RAMIREZ

Racing cars is a compelling passion that runs through some families like a fever. In the motor sport community, it is a passion that is inherited and bestowed from father to son, resulting in the creation of a racing dynasty.

There was a time when race car drivers in the Philippines were celebrities like basketball stars are today. Drivers like Dodjie Laurel in the 1960s, Pocholo Ramirez and Dante Silverio in the 1970s and 1980s were household names who inspired youngsters to watch and follow motor sport events, then eventually try their hand at car racing, starting with karts.

But when the Internet and cable TV enabled people to watch Formula One and World Rally Championship races live from the other side of the world in the comfort of their homes instead of traveling all the way to Subic, Clark or Batangas to experience a local race, public interest in Philippine motor sport waned together with sponsorships and media coverage.

Nonetheless, the number of motor sport events sanctioned by the Automobile Association Philippines (AAP) increased from 47 in 2017, to 51 in 2018, while the number of competition licenses issued by AAP grew from 142 in 2017, to 169 in 2018 — proof that car racing is still a thriving local and national sporting activity.

(AAP, as the only Philippine affiliate of the global Federation Internationale de l’Automobile or FIA, is authorized to issue car racing licenses and supervise all four-wheel motor sport events in the country.)

The history of motor sport in the Philippines from the 1950s to the mid-1990s was narrated in a coffee table book, “Fast Lane” by Junep Ocampo. AAP published the book in 2006 when the auto club, formerly known as the Philippine Motor Association, celebrated its 75th anniversary. A sequel is clearly overdue as the growth of motor sport here is a never-ending story, propelled and perpetuated as it is by enthusiastic, young, aspiring race car drivers and emerging racing dynasties.

Here, in brief, with AAP and “Fast Lane” as sources, are the stories of some of the individuals and families who helped to shape the development of car racing in the country in the last 34 years 1985-2019.

THE POCHOLO RAMIREZ DYNASTY

Born on January 19, 1933, Jose del Rosario Ramirez de Arellano, better known as Pocholo Ramirez, learned the basics of car racing by racing karts in 1963 at the relatively advanced (for motor sport) age of 30. By 1966, he had graduated to rally car racing and won the Shell Car Rally that year.

In the next two years, he triumphed in many slalom events at the Nichols Airbase and Manila International Airport grounds, earning his first Driver of the Year award from the Philippine Motor Sports Club.

After figuring in a car crash in 1967 on EDSA, Ramirez grew a beard to cover the scars on his face. In 1970, he won the Dodjie Laurel Memorial Race at the Manila Grand Prix in Luneta, and in 1971 earned his third Driver of the Year title from the Automobile Racing Association of the Philippines after winning the Baby Luna Memorial Race at the Greenhills Grand Prix.

When Ramirez and Arthur Tuason collided in a major accident at the BF Resort Village in Las Pinas in 1977, Pocholo called for a complete stop to circuit racing and vowed never to race on makeshift tracks again. He turned to competing in car rallies and in 1979 was the first Asian to finish in the ASEAN IV International Rally.

But Ramirez’s most important victories, according to his son Georges, were at the Macau Grand Prix where he was the champion in the 1600 class and finished second overall to a German Works driver in a 3.0-liter BMW.

In the Formula Cars class at the Macau Grand Prix, Georges Ramirez says, his father “had a dicing battle with Japanese driver Misaki for majority of the race. It was so exciting that the museum had the battle on video loop the last time I was there.”

Pocholo Ramirez had four sons and one daughter: Jose Andre, a.k.a. Kookie, was the eldest, followed by Georges, Louis, Michelle, and Miguel.

Kookie, the first-born, raced in karting from 1978-1983, moved on to circuit racing in 1984-1985 and 1996-2009, Formula Atlantic Asia 1982-1983, the Southeast Asian Touring Car Championship (whole series) and Macau (2000), Southeast Asian Touring Car Championship (Subic rounds) from 2001-2002 and endurance racing (2006-2009).

Georges was also into karting from 1978 to 1983, moved to Formula Atlantic Asia 1984-1985, Rally, Rally Cross and Slalom 1987-1988, MotoX 1975-1997, Prototype SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) in USA 1993-1994, touring cars in Subic 1994-2001, Southeast Asian Touring Car Championship (whole series) and Macau 2000, Southeast Asian Touring Car Championship (Subic rounds) 2000-2002, endurance racing 2006-2009, Race of Champions 2011.

Louis raced in karting 1982-1983, touring car 1996-2007, Southeast Asian Touring Car and Macau 2000, Philippine Endurance Championship touring car and prototype 2017-2019.

Michelle was into karting from 1982-1983 while Miguel was active in circuit racing from 1996 to 2007. Menchie, Kookie’s wife, participated in various motor sport events, too.

In his 70s, Pocholo Ramirez was afflicted with cancer. He crossed the finish line on March 18, 2009. Kookie followed in October 2010, leaving behind his son Stefan to continue the Ramirez racing dynasty.

Stefan Francisco Ramirez competed in the Philippine National Touring Car series, the Philippine Endurance Championship 8-hour 2017 and 4-hour 2017, the Kalayaan Cup 12-hour, and Formula V1.

Pocholo Ramirez was not only a champion race car driver, he played a major role in converting an area of the former Subic Naval Base into the Subic International Speedway with the support and cooperation of then Olongapo City Mayor Richard Gordon and fellow race car drivers Mandy Eduque, Mike Potenciano, Louie Camus, Ramy Diez, Freddie Masigan and Macky Carapiet.

The Subic race track, managed by Georges Ramirez, hosted numerous circuit racing events after its opening in August 1994, and also various international events like the Southeast Asian Touring Car series, Asian Formula 2000 and Asian Festival of Speed.

According to Georges Ramirez, the Subic International Speedway was last used in 2010. When its lease came to an end, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) no longer wanted it to be a race track.

Arthur Tuason with sons JP and Mike

THE TUASON DYNASTY

JP Tuason, now 44, was 19 when his father Arthur Tuason, he and his uncle Danny scored a 1-2-3 Tuason family finish at the inaugural race of the Subic International Speedway in 1994.

“We won the one-make race for the Nissan Sentra,” JP recalls now. “It was the best memory ever. I was as fast as my dad but because he was paying the bills and we had team orders… Racing was very raw back then and it was really just about having a good time.”

According to “Fast Lane,” Arthur Tuason, considered one of the fastest drivers of his time, was the eldest of four children, all boys. He began racing in his teens, joining drag races on Quezon Avenue in 1967, and 1968 in a Ford Cortina with a Lotus engine borrowed from his father who supported his motor sport ambitions.

In 1969, Arthur Tuason, driving a Ford Escort, gained the respect of motor sport enthusiasts when he placed third in the stock class race behind veterans Dodo Ayuyao and Paquito Ventura at the Philippine Grand Prix in Cebu City. Afterwards, he and his brother Danny raced in the mini rallies of the 1970s, thereby earning a slot in the Royal Rally of Champions where they placed second overall in the novice class.

Driving a Ford Escort GT, Arthur Tuason won the Driver of the Year title after dominating the regular races of the Automobile Racing Association of the Philippines at the Ortigas track.

After a short stint in 1973 racing saloon cars in New Zealand and in Formula Ford, Arthur Tuason returned to the Philippines to compete in both circuit and rally events. But he soon left again, this time flying to Canada with his young family in 1979 after the oil crisis caused the PH government to suspend car racing.

When Arthur Tuason returned to Manila in 1987, JP was 12 and his brother Mike was 5, old enough to learn karting. Arthur exposed them to the Kartway in Libis and later to the Carmona karting circuit in Cavite, giving them all they needed to excel in racing.

“We started karting in 1989 with my dad, my brother started about two years later,” JP remembers. “This was such a great time, it was our formative years in motor sport. It was the basis for everything we know now. We went karting almost every weekend until 1993, when my dad started rally cross. I did a year with him, then moved on to circuit racing in Subic in 1994.”

It was in 1994 that the racing Tuasons – Arthur, his son JP and his brother Danny – caught the attention of the local racing community with their 1-2-3 family finish at the Subic International Speedway. At the end of the season, Arthur Tuason was named Driver of the Year.

Also in 1994, JP Tuason was named Novice Rally Cross Champion. The following year he won the Novice Circuit Championship at Subic.

When his father was diagnosed with leukemia in 1996 and died only a week later, JP stopped racing temporarily. “My dad passed away very suddenly and I found myself with no sponsor and no real direction in life,” JP says. “Fortunately, I found a girl friend who became my wife, Jeanette. I wanted to stay in motor sport and she had experience in (organizing) events … so we started our first racing clinic in 1999 with 150 students racing karts.

“It just got bigger and better from there and the rest is history. We always had the urge to be better, so in 2001 we went to the U.S. and studied for a week at Skip Barber Racing School. We spent all our savings taking classes, so it was make it or break it!

“We base our current classes after this experience. We have since done the Peugeot Race and Rally School in Spa (Belgium) and the BMW training in Germany which have helped us to sharpen our skills in driver training.”

In the meantime, JP resumed racing. He was named Karter of the Year in 1997 and again in 1998, placed first at the 1999 Formula Toyota Race in Filinvest City, the Rotax Karting Championship in 2003, and made several podium finishes in F3 races in 2004-2006.

“F3 was a great experience for us although we never really had the budget to be racing in this series,” JP avers. “It taught us the importance of sponsorship to make things happen and how to make sponsorship work.”

JP Tuason retired from racing cars in 2012 after competing in the Porsche Sports Cup at the Nurburgring. Asked why, he replied: “I believe that competition between student and teacher is not healthy as it removes our focus on creating the best environment and techniques for learning. We believe in constant evolution and reinvention at the race school which could get lost in trying to be better than our students.”

JP Tuason helping his dad Arthur prepare for a kart race

JP and Jeanette have five children: Arthur age 19, Alysha age 15, Andre age 8, and the 5-year-old twins Arya and Andi. JP says that Arthur tried motor sport, racing karts for two years, but has moved on to team sports like football.

Meanwhile, the JP Tuason Racing School provides training in karting, circuit racing, single seaters and motorcycles. The school also trains drivers in road safety defensive driving road cars, small trucks and HGV (heavy goods vehicles).

Carlos Anton, 49, learned how to race cars from his father Miguel, and is now teaching his son Inigo, 16, the same racing savvy.

Miguel Anton, the first to race in the family, was mentored by the late great Pocholo Ramirez who was his teammate in Team Renault in the Shell Car Rally days during the 1960s.

Carlos learned the art of car racing from his father Miguel in the 1980s, and in 1989 began competing in slaloms at age 18. In the early 1990s, MP Turbo Rally Team founder Mike Potenciano took Carlos Anton under his wing.

It wasn’t long before Carlos Anton began collecting trophies. He won the National Karter of the Year twice – in the novice class in 1995 and in clubman in 1996. AAP named him Driver of the Year eight times: one each for Rally Cross (1996) and Philippine Touring Car (2013) and six times for Hill Climb Racing (2007 to 2012).

Moreover, Anton won the Formula Toyota Novice Championship in 2000 and was awarded the Golden Wheel award twice for Circuit Racing (2003 and 2007).

Carlos Anton (left) and son Inigo

THE ANTONS – A DYNASTY IN THE MAKING

Carlos Anton first taught his son Inigo the basics of car racing before the boy joined the AAP Motor Sport Development Program (MSDP). Inigo became the youngest finalist of the MSDP at age 13.

But even before enrolling in the MSDP, Inigo was already into motor sport. Inigo started racing cars at age 8 in the Circuit Showdown Time Attack events.

In 2016, Inigo Anton proved his racing mettle when he bagged the AAP Cadet Karter of the Year award, followed by the National Front Wheel Slalom Championship in 2017 and again in 2018. He was the youngest ever, at just 13 years of age, to capture the slalom championship.

This year, at age 15, Inigo showed the way once more when he won the Philippine Autocross Overall and Open Championship along with the Vios Festival Autocross Championship.

Carlos Anton plans to continue supporting his son’s motor sport career and aspirations at both the national and international levels with the help of AAP and its MSDP. “With the blessings of AAP, Inigo has competed at the 2017 Asian Auto Gymkhana Championship in Taiwan and in the Asian Karting Open Championships in Macau and Thailand,” he revealed.

The Antons live in Baguio City, where Carlos Anton helps in running the family-owned restaurants. As shown by the father-and-son duo’s multiple awards in motor sport, the fresh air and high altitude of Baguio City help athletes to develop endurance and strength which are needed to become a successful race car driver.

Jody Coseteng and his son Eduardo “EJ”

THE COSETENG DYNASTY

Jose Eduardo “Jody” Coseteng is known in motor sport circles as the man who won the Driver of the Year award in touring cars/circuit racing 15 times, starting in the mid-1990s. Jody has also garnered the Golden Wheel Driver of the Year award in circuit racing and two Karter of the Year titles from the Philippine Sportwriters Association, aside from several GT 300 championships.

Coseteng was racing touring cars from 1983 up to 1994 in the United States before returning to Manila to start racing karts. Since then, he has won so many racing awards that he cannot remember them all. Unfortunately, the AAP Motor Sport Division cannot be of help at present since their files have been misplaced or corrupted.

Jody Coseteng stopped racing cars in 2015 and is now focused on the motor sport career of his son Eduardo Jose, Jr. or EJ.

Born on September 27, 2008, EJ Coseteng began karting at age 7 and won in the novice class, then in expert class at age 9. After enrolling in the JP Tuason Racing School, EJ continued karting in the Cadet Category for two years more before he scored the Cadet Kart Driver of the Year national championship at age 11.

EJ followed up this victory by placing first in the Mini-ROK class, both national and international, of the Asian Karting Open Championship.

From there, young Coseteng moved up to Junior in karting, winning second overall in the Southeast Asian Championships at the age of 12, and first in the Junior class of the Philippine National Karting Championships and Southeast Asian Open Championships. He has also won in the Cadet and Junior karting categories in Macau.

In the last two or three years whenever AAP hosts its annual Motor Sport Awards Night, EJ’s aunt, former Senator Nikki Coseteng, accepts the award on his behalf.

That’s because EJ is studying in London, where he is a member of the British karting team. Now in Senior class at age 14, he placed ninth overall in the British Karting category this year.

Jody Coseteng says that EJ will compete in the last round of the Asian Karting Open Championships in Senior category in Macau on December 6-8. As always, Jody will fully support and encourage the motor sport endeavors of his son this week and in the years to come.

Mandy Eduque (left) shows his Golden Wheel Hall of Fame trophy to AAP president Gus
Lagman.

MANDY EDUQUE

Jose Armando Eduque y Ledesma, born on June 1, 1945, began driving in local car rallies in 1977. In 1979, he finished first in Group 2 of the FIA-sanctioned ASEAN International IV Rally in the Philippines.

When car racing was banned in the Philippines in 1979 as a result of the oil crisis, Eduque went abroad to attend competition driving courses. In 1982, he attended the Bondurant School of High Performance Drive at Sears Point, California, then flew to England in 1983 to enroll in the Rally Racing School at Silverstone, and later at the Bill Gwynne Rally School in Banburry.

Rally car racing returned to the less travelled back roads of the Philippines in 1982. Eduque scored his first comeback rally victory in December that year at the Rally ng Bulacan, driving a Ford Escort RS2000 with navigator Rody Cruz beside him.

From 1984 to 1989, Eduque focused on FIA-sanctioned rallies abroad, such as the Lucky Strike Rally of Malaysia, the Hong Kong-Beijing Rally, the Rally of New Zealand, the Macau Grand Prix Ghia Race Saloon Group A, and the Rally of Australia (WRC).

He had better luck locally, placing third overall in the 1985 and 1988 Mabuhay International Rally. Finally, after finishing second overall at the 1990 Mabuhay International Rally, Eduque was proclaimed Philippine National Rally Champion Driver of the Year.

He followed this up with 2nd Overall in National Championship in 1991, 1992, and 1993, plus Philippine National Rallycross Overall Series Winner in 1997.

Now 74, Eduque doesn’t recall exactly when he retired from competition racing, but he thinks it may have been sometime in the late 1990s, when he joined the board of directors of AAP, and became chairman of the AAP Motor Sport Committee.

In 2017, Mandy Eduque was inducted into the Golden Wheel Hall of Fame by Golden Wheel Foundation chairman Johnny Tan, a businessman and former karting racer.

Ten-time National Rally Champion Vip Isada (right)with his son Ivan.

VIP AND IVAN ISADA

Vip Isada won the Philippine National Car Rally Championship 10 times in the 1980s. His son Ivan was National Rally Cross Champion in 2002 and won AAP’s National Driver of the Year award that year. In 2003, the last time a National Car Rally series was held, Ivan Isada gathered the same awards again.

In 1983, the young Vip Isada and his bride of four months Norma created a sensation when they celebrated Valentine’s Day by competing as a team in the 100 Hills Rally of Cavite on board an Isuzu Gemini. The newlywed couple won, beating team favorites Mandy Eduque and navigator Rody Cruz on board a Ford Escort RS2000, and the Robert Aventajado /Boy Saycon tandem in a Toyota Corolla.

After retiring from car racing, Vip Isada was hired by Honda Cars Philippines to conduct the Honda Media Challenge, a rally cross training program for the working press. Isada designed the rally cross race track where the media, guided by Isada’s veteran rally teammates as navigators, competed in time trials using a fleet of Honda City cars.

When AAP organized the Motor Sport Development Program in 2017 to train aspiring young race car drivers at the grass roots level, Vip Isada was again chosen as head coach. This time, his coaching team included his son Ivan and experienced motor sport competitors like 4-time Slalom Driver of the Year Milo Rivera and rally car driver Robbie Hermoso.

This year, Ivan Isada was appointed AAP Motor Sport Manager in charge of the MSDP and other motor sport-related activities.

Mike Potenciano shows off his first Asian international rally trophy.

MIKE POTENCIANO

Mike Potenciano, now 58, not only raced cars, at the age of 22 , in 1983 he organized the MP Turbo Rally Team which helped to popularize motor sport nationwide.

Potenciano’s major podium finishes began in 1986, when he won the Philippine National Slalom Championship, and placed second in Class A-4, 8th Overall at the Hong Kong- Beijing Rally.

In 1990, he was Production Division Champion and finished 9th Overall at the Malaysian Rally.

He collected more trophies in the following years: 1991-1994 National Rally Cross Champion with the Mazda-MP Turbo Team, 1992 National Karter of the Year, 1995-1996 Philippine National Production Class Champion with the Caltex-Mitsubishi team.

Many more production racing titles came his way during 1998-2003 with the Hyundai-MP Turbo Team, capped by 2nd Overall in the Asian Formula 2000 in 2002 and winner of two rounds in Thailand.

Dante Silverio and Mike Potenciano (at center) with Rody Cruz and Jojo Estrella before the 1987 Hong Kong-Beijing Rally.

In 2007, Potenciano won the Philippine GT Team Championship, although he had retired from fulltime racing in 2003. In 2018, Potenciano organized the MP Turbo Rally of Champions (ROC) in which he also competes.

For Potenciano, the most memorable race of his career was his first international rally, the Hong Kong to Beijing Rally in 1986 where he and his navigator placed 2nd in Group A4 and 8th Overall.

Second most memorable in rally racing was the 1990 Malaysian Rally where he won the Production Division Championship and finished 9th Overall.

In circuit racing, the most memorable was the 2002 Asian Formula 2000 Championship where he missed the title by only one point in the end due to “very dubious terms.”

“I focused on both rally and circuit racing, that is why our Rally of Champions has both tarmac and dirt races,” Potenciano says. “We advocate trying all genre of motor sport by all race car drivers.”

At present, Potenciano writes a weekly motor sport column for The Manila Times and contributes articles to various print and online sites, including his own mpturbo.com. He runs the online site together with his partner, Lindy Pellicer, ditto their Turbo Time TV show on Cignal TV’s ONE PH channel and TV5 every Saturday, 7 – 8 pm.

FINISH LINE. This feature article on motor sport in the last 34 years unfortunately does not include many outstanding race car drivers for lack of space and data sources – a living legend like Golden Wheel Hall of Famer Dante Silverio, who dominated the sport in the 1970s and retired in the 1980s, his son Jojo Silverio, Eddie Marcelo and his son Jovy who tragically perished at age 27 when his Lola Cosworth car smashed into the wall during a practice run for the 1992 Indy 500 race on the Indianapolis Speedway; Conrado “Dodo” Ayuyao, Enzo Pastor, Tyson Sy, and Marlon Stockinger, among others.

Meanwhile, in his “Fast Lane” epilogue, Mandy Eduque wrote that motor sport in the Philippines has already evolved from a mere hobby of the wealthy into a full-fledged industry employing thousands of Filipinos and contributing millions to the economy, aside from bringing honor and recognition to the Philippines through the victories of Filipino racers abroad and the hosting of international motor sport events here like the FIA Sport Conference last June which was attended by some 350 delegates from all over the world.

What Eduque wrote about the benefits of motor sport to the country still rings true, and many times over.

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