Season Recap of the 2019 Giti-Formula V1 Challenge

Champions come together for the culminating event of the Formula V1 Season 2
Champions come together for the culminating event of the Formula V1 Season 2

After a successful debut in 2018, the Giti-Formula V1 Challenge returned this year with more experienced teams and a wealth of new, talented drivers.

Formula V1 is the first homegrown formula car program in the country and the flagship series in the rebuilding of Philippine motorsports. It’s a “spec” formula meaning every team runs exactly the same vehicle–that makes V1 racing cost-effective, easy to maintain, and, competitive and exciting because driver skill becomes the most important aspect–and with a dream race in Suzuka against the V1 champions of Japan awaiting the champion, the drivers definitely delivered a lot of highly skilled and epic racing all season long.

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.

Media partners: Autoindustriya, Autocar, Wheelsph, Jamesdeakin.com, C!Magazine, and ESPN 5

APRIL: The Giti-Formula V1 Tune Up Event

FV1 drivers in the Tune-up event of the Formula V1 2019 with Giti series sponsors
FV1 drivers in the Tune-up event of the Formula V1 2019 with Giti series sponsors

The new racers of 2019 got to test their cars against each other in the first event of the season at CIS on April 7. The grid welcomed Frontrow Racing’s Raymond Ronquillo, Glutamax M1 Racing Team’s Gaby Dela Merced, One Formula’s Jerry Choi, Edgesport Racing’s Francesco Dino, and Team Obengers’ young duo of Estefano Rivera and 16-year old Alex Brown.

Aside from a valuable shakedown session, over 60 enthusiasts and their beautiful cars also joined for a trackday event organized by title sponsors, Giti, at CIS!

MAY: The 2019 Giti-Formula V1 Challenge Official Launch

The Formula V1 overlooking the polo field
The Formula V1 overlooking the polo field

Held at Manila Polo Club, and coinciding with Tuason Racing’s celebration of 20 years in the business, the season was officially opened on May 8. JP Tuason, founder and CEO, again shared the vision for Formula V1 with the assembled guests of racers, teams, sponsors, and media. “With the growth of grassroots motorsports spearheaded by Toyota’s Vios Cup One Make Race program, racing is coming back with a vengeance. We at Tuason Racing in our long years in the motorsports business have always believed that Filipinos are made for racing, given the right opportunities and training, we can be a major player in any grid around the world. So when the this opportunity crossed our paths three years ago, we believed that this is the next important step in rebuilding Philippine motorsports and making Filipino Global Racing Champions.”

The YDP finalists - Raffy Rabe (left), Tara Laconico (middle), and Patrichk Dela Rosa (right)
The YDP finalists – Raffy Rabe (left), Tara Laconico (middle), and Patrichk Dela Rosa (right)

Series presenters Phoenix PULSE also announced the winners of their Young Driver’s Program–a search that attracted hundreds of hopefuls from all over the country–and introduced Raffy Rabe as their driver for the 2019 Formula V1 season.

JUNE: Round 1 at Batangas Racing Circuit

Shane Henderson (left) and Red Diwa flank Alex Brown on the podium
Shane Henderson (left) and Red Diwa flank Alex Brown on the podium

The leaders of both the AM and Pro Classes announced their intent at the first round in BRC on May 18. Alex Brown shocked everyone by sweeping the first three races of the season in the AM Class, while Cleanfuel’s Ryo Yamada took home 48 points versus Estefano Rivera’s 45 in the very competitive Pro Class that saw them share the podium with Growl-Thule’s Jussi Hoikka, Ensport’s Stefan Ramirez, and Frontrow’s Raymond Ronquillo.

JULY: Round 2 at Clark International Speedway

Stefan Ramirez (left), Estefano Rivera, and Ryo Yamada were fixtures on the podium this season
Stefan Ramirez (left), Estefano Rivera, and Ryo Yamada were fixtures on the podium this season

With new sponsors, Eurasia Motorsport, announcing the extra prize of a Formula Masters test drive in Sepang, the stakes were high as the action moved to Clark on July 20-21. Alex Brown continued his dominance in the AM Class but had his first taste of elimination in the weekend’s second race as he spun off track–in the same race, Phoenix’s Young Driver Raffy Rabe showed his amazing progress as he clinched a first-ever podium in third. Meanwhile, OTR’s Red Diwa added to his second-place finishes and steadily built his points haul.

In the highlight of the weekend, Rivera executed a last-minute pass on Yamada in wet conditions after exchanging the lead several times in the final race of the round. That left just a single point between them in favor of the Japanese driver.

OCTOBER: Round 3 at Clark International Speedway

The heart-stopping moment during race 7
The heart-stopping moment during race 7

With double points on the line, Round 3 on October 19-20 got off to an explosive start as five cars collided off the starting line in the opening race. With his car suffering the worst damage, Alex Brown was transported to the hospital and cleared to recover with no major injury on the same day.

The other drivers involved were also unhurt because 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.

With Brown out for the weekend, Red Diwa claimed all three top finishes in his category to inch past the AEG-Toyota driver’s lead and claim the AM class championship.

Side by side finish of Estefano Rivera and Ryo Yamada!
Side by side finish of Estefano Rivera and Ryo Yamada!

In the Pro Class, the highlight of the 2019 season happened in Race 8. After trading paint with his rival in a daring inside pass with no room for error, Estefano Rivera crossed the finish line side-by-side with Ryo Yamada to give Team Obengers the lead heading into the final Race 9. With mathematical progression assured–even if a flying Yamada won–Rivera took the car home safely in second and won the Pro Class, the overall championship, and the chance to race at the legendary Suzuka Circuit in December!

Stefan Ramirez passed Jussi Hoikka on the last lap of a long battle, but the Growl-Thule driver’s points total gave him third place in Pro and overall with a single point! A fitting finish as the middle places also saw a lot of intense competition all season.

NOVEMBER: The Tuason Racing Raceday and Ultra 4 Hours Endurance Race

Racing under the setting sun at the end of the Ultra 4
Racing under the setting sun at the end of the Ultra 4

The culminating event of the Formula V1 calendar was a grueling four-hour race at CIS on November 16.

Kicked off by the much-awaited Phoenix PULSE Supercars Trackday that had almost 100 attendees, 21 teams put their stamina to the test starting at 1PM. It was a star-studded effort that included Gaby Dela Merced, Jinno Rufino, and British racer Martin Gibson for the Standard Insurance team, Dominic Roque from Cleanfuel Racing Team, Troy Montero and Phoemela Baranda representing Frontrow Racing Team, and Rhian Ramos with Phoenix Pulse Racing Team.

Rhian Ramos was surely the prettiest racer on the grid!
Rhian Ramos was surely the prettiest racer on the grid!

Cleanfuel Racing Team reeled off 96 laps with their all-star team featuring 2018 Giti-Formula V1 Challenge overall champion Luis Gono, Ryo Yamada, and his compatriot, Naoki Yamaya, to win the four-hour event.

In second-place was Edgesport Racing Team with formula racing and FV1 veteran Tyson Sy, multiple-time slalom and autocross champion, Milo Rivera, and regular season driver Cesco Dino. With a total time of 4:02:23, only 2:11 separated them from the winning team–small margins for enduro racing.

In third was Toyota Otis-Obengers composed of the current champ Estefano Rivera, up-and-coming Vios Circuit Challenge racer, John Dizon, and Obengers team manager, Pao Agregado.

DECEMBER: FV1 PH Champ Rivera in the 2019 Suzuka Clubman Race and Runner-up Yamada in Formula Masters Testing at Sepang

Tuason Racing Founder JP Tuason (left) with Formula V1 PH Champion Estefano Rivera (middle) and Race Director Ferdie Ong (right)
Tuason Racing Founder JP Tuason (left) with Formula V1 PH Champion Estefano Rivera (middle) and Race Director Ferdie Ong (right)

Formula V1 PH champion Estefano Rivera finished fifth out of 30 Japanese drivers in the recently concluded 2019 Suzuka Clubman Race in Japan.

Rivera, who raced under the flag of Formula V1 TRS Obengers Team, bested more experienced Japanese racers and qualified fifth overall. He only had two days to practice and familiarize himself with the Formula 1 track and the car.

The strong finish is not without incident. Rivera climbed into fourth place but span out on lap three and ended up in 8th place. He slowly climbed back up to 5th place when the checkered flag was waved.

Ryo Yamada in the Formula Masters car
Ryo Yamada in the Formula Masters car

Formula V1 PH overall second-place finisher, Ryo Yamada, gained his first Formula Masters testing experience with Eurasia Motorsports at Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia.

The Japanese racer drove a Tatuus chassis with a 185 hp 2.0L Volkswagen engine that comes in a 6-speed Sadev paddle-shift gearbox.

Later in the afternoon, rain affected the testing session making the track a slippery challenge for Yamada. Positively, it provided a more complete experience for him as he tested in both wet and dry conditions.

Yamada expressed his gratitude to Tuason Racing and Eurasia Motorsports for the great partnership in bringing Formula V1 drivers to a higher tier of racing.

Tuason Racing and Formula V1 Founder, JP Tuason at Suzuka Circuit for the 2019 Suzuka Clubman Race
Tuason Racing and Formula V1 Founder, JP Tuason at Suzuka Circuit for the 2019 Suzuka Clubman Race

Formula V1 and Tuason Racing founder JP Tuason plans to roll out the series in different Asian countries in the next two to three years. Taking Formula V1 drivers to race in prestigious circuits abroad provides exposure and fulfills the goals of the series. 

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