The Giti-Formula V1 Challenge, the country’s first homegrown formula series, crowned its 2019 champion on October 20 at Clark International Speedway. After three rounds and nine intense races, Estefano Rivera of the Toyota Balintawak Obengers clinched the top spot in the overall points championship, winning the coveted seat to race against the Formula V1 champions of Japan at the legendary Suzuka Circuit.
Speaking at the end of the weekend, the new champion was looking forward to his race in December. “I’m honored and blessed to have the opportunity to race in Suzuka, a world-class track. When I was a kid I would watch Formula 1 there, and to race there hasn’t actually sunk in yet, but in a couple of days I’ll have to start practicing on my Xbox!”
Japanese racer Ryo Yamada, who was leading Rivera by a single point coming into Round 3, finished second overall and gets the opportunity to test a Formula Masters car at Sepang with Eurasia Motorsports.
In the AM Class, Red Diwa made the most of the double points available and was crowned the provisional class champion after reigning class leader Alex Brown ended his weekend early due to the dramatic crash in Race 7.
Throughout three rounds, the racers all showed great development–which is one of Formula V1’s main goals: to develop Filipino talent for world-class competition–and a lot of quality racing on track!
RACE 7: An Explosive Start to the Weekend
The weekend opener saw multiple racers collide and take each other out during the initial jostle for position off the starting line. Raymond Ronquillo of Frontrow, Raffy Rabe of Phoenix Racing, Francesco Dino of Edgesport Racing, Dominic Roque of Cleanfuel, and Alex Brown of AEG-Toyota Obengers were involved. Four of the racers made it out unharmed with Tuason Racing’s safety measures and emergency protocols immediately coming to their aid.
With his bright orange Formula V1 car suffering the worst damage, Brown was transported to the hospital and–aside from some bruising–the young racer was released on the same day and began his recuperation in good spirits. When the shortened 10-lap race resumed, Rivera held against a superhuman effort from Yamada (who recorded a blistering 2:10 lap in the process) to keep his pole position until the checkered flag.
Talking about his intense defensive effort, Rivera said that, “Every position counts, going into this event Ryo was leading by a point so there was no math to it–whoever gets the most wins out of three will get the championship.”
Jussi Hoikka of Growl-Thule Racing finished third in the Pro Class, while Red Diwa of OTR Racing claimed first in the AM Class followed by Bryan Co, and Jerry Choi.
RACE 8: The Epic Highlight of the Season
With the championship in the balance, Rivera attacked Yamada early in Race 8 and took the lead after the Japanese driver skidded wide in the first lap. Yamada regained first place inside a few laps but the Obengers driver went ahead for good after he executed a dramatic pass on the Japanese racer’s inside line–so close that the two V1 cars traded paint coming out of the corner!
Rivera managed to defend his new position until the end for the closest result of the season: a photo finish with Yamada crossing the finish line side by side with his rival.
Yamada applauded his rival post-race, acknowledging that, “Estefano is very strong, but I just needed a few more laps [and I would have won]” laying down the gauntlet for the decisive Race 9.
Stefan Ramirez of Ensport was demoted from third for a false start penalty, elevating Frontrow’s Raymond Ronquillo onto the podium after he fought his way up to fourth from seventh place on the grid.
Post-race, the Frontrow racer praised the even playing field of the one-make series and how it brings out the best of its drivers. “Masarap kasi siya pag wheel-to-wheel ang racing, masaya. Parang yung time ko [in practice and QTT] was 2:13 to 2:12. Pero this time, pag karera na talaga, bumaba pa siya.”
In the AM Class, Red Diwa finished first again, followed by a recovered Dominic Roque, and Giti’s Bryan Co.
Roque, who also experienced a major accident in the previous round, stated that it didn’t scare him to get back into the cockpit after Race 7. “I came from motorcycle racing, so mas delikado siya. Regarding what happened to me in those past accidents, nakakatakot, yes, but mas safe naman siya in a way. The car is built to protect you pag may nangyaring masama.”
Aside from the Formula V1 being crash certified by the Japan Automobile Federation, mandatory HANS use and other safety guidelines are strictly followed by Tuason Racing, in cooperation with AAP and CIS, for every event.
RACE 9: A Champion Is Crowned
Mathematically, Estefano Rivera only needed second place to claim the championship even if Yamada took first place in the final race–and the Japanese driver immediately claimed the lead off his mid-pack position on the starting line. With his gearbox acting up early on, Rivera showed great professionalism and took the car home in one piece to finish in the required second place. “Of course I wanted to push, but unfortunately my transmission [was damaged] second wasn’t in the right place, maybe from the great battles with Ryo. So I decided to just finish and take the car home.”
Jussi Hoikka battled hard to keep third place against a charging Stefan Ramirez, but the Finnish driver was eventually passed on the final lap, giving Ramirez the final podium place in the Pro Class.
In the AM Series, Red Diwa again claimed first to clinch the class points lead. Giti’s Bryan Co dueled with Dominic Roque for second over several laps until the celebrity racer went wide off track and had to retire. This lead to Phoenix’s Young Driver Raffy Rabe ending his debut season strongly in third, adding to his podium finishes for the season.
Formula V1 action resumes during the Tuason Racing Trackday featuring the Ultra 4 Hours Endurance Race on November 16 at CIS!
The Giti-Formula V1 Challenge is presented by Phoenix Pulse Technology and Tuason Racing. Sponsored by Giti Tires Philippines, West Racing Cars, OMP, AEG Powertools, Phoenix Accelerate, Rota Wheels, Oakley, Eurasia, FamilyMart, and Don Papa Rhum.
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