The racers recount their trials and tribulations on the track.
This is the second of two parts. Read part one here.
Team Raceform Garage 2233 invited Mantle to attend the team’s celebration party at Cellar 22, a stylish speakeasy at the 22nd floor of the Bellevue Hotel.
As I entered, Don Pastor stood up to greet me, and proceeded to introduce me to everyone. Patrick Chan, who was standing by the bar at the time, was kind enough to order a beer and put it in my hand. Things were off to a good start. There was a lot of racing talent in the room, and I was eager to hear about their experiences. Apparently, they were just as eager to share them.
By the end of the night, I couldn’t believe six hours had gone by so quickly. The following are excerpts from conversations with the team as they talked about their experiences over whiskey and beer.
How did it feel to race for three hours?
It was more mental rather than physical. You have to focus, do what you are supposed to do, and run the pace. We were on radios, and occasionally the team would say, “you dropped the pace,” then I would explain that there was traffic or I had to find my way past someone, There are factors within each lap, but outside of that we stayed exactly on point for what was needed.
There’s a picture of your own Miata in the pit with its tires removed. Can you tell us more about this?
My Miata was there just in case there was a problem with our Global Cup Car and there was a chance parts from my car could help. I have been racing with these guys since last season, and I see them as close friends. I trust these guys, I know what they can do, and I know that whatever I need, they are there for me. So, we all can give so much, we can go all out.
How was your race, Enrique?
I was the second driver in the Global Cup Car, and it was still on a decent set of tires, the brakes were still fresh. The car had been running for two hours only. I remember seeing the Auto Performance M3 pass me, and then I tried to chase him. At some point, I saw him enter the pit, and I still had half a tank of fuel left.
I think that is where the Miata’s lightness advantage played out. We could stay out, while they had to go back into the pit for fuel, so it was really a strategy of being out as long as we could in the car, making the fuel last, and trying to brake lightly to carry speed in the corners.
You were driving the Volkswagen when the brakes caught fire. Can you tell us about your experience?
A while after I started doing laps, the brakes started to judder, and I noticed they were getting soft. So, I started alternating between two fast laps, followed by three slow laps, just to rest the brakes. Then I got a call from the pit to pick up my pace a little, so I did. I was going into a turn, and I stepped on the brakes, and [got] nothing!
So, I ended up in a gravel trap. I ate sand, because it all went into the car. In the process of trying to save the car, I moved my arm and accidentally pulled out my radio earpiece, so I couldn’t understand what the team was saying. So, I kept repeating, “I don’t know if you guys can hear me, but I have to pit in, because I have no brakes!” I just came in, hoping they were ready for me.
The minute I entered the paddock, people started screaming “Sunog! Sunog!” (Fire! Fire!) The brake rotors were ablaze. People were hitting them with the fire extinguisher over and over while the marshals quickly made sure I got out of the car. I inhaled so much brake smoke I’m sure I didn’t do my lungs any service.
In this race, the first five laps are hard, but after a while you get used to it, because you are having fun. The real thing that made me sweat were the f***ing brakes!
What were the major factors that contributed to the team’s success?
First, the pit crew. Don and I spent time with them Tuesday night before the race to work on the time and motion for tire changes, identify who is good at what, train them, time them, and make sure that they are getting the job done right. That took three hours of training.
We finally got the guys who could do it right and were well-coordinated, so we were quick during race day. Even the fuel loading, the pit crew was very essential. Though we had a lot of unexpected events, especially with the Volkswagen, the brakes, we weren’t expecting that. The car came into the pit with the brake pistons hanging out, all the fluid was flowing out, the fluid was on fire from the heat. We had to put it out with the extinguisher—all of that was unexpected.
The drivers also, we needed to train for driver changes, getting out, getting in. For the Volkswagen, we arranged the drivers from the largest to the smallest, so as they got into the car, it was minimal adjustment to the harness. They just needed to pull it tight, because adjusting takes a lot of time.
I think we made a good team, actually. If we spend more time together and we learn more about each other’s strong points, weak points, it will also get better.
What does the Kalayaan Cup mean for Philippine motorsports?
The Kalayaan Cup is an entry point at the grassroots level, to professional racing nationally. You get a bunch of guys that come from club racing and give them an opportunity to experience racing with seasoned drivers competing at national races. They just require that you have a valid driver’s license from the LTO, and you can join.
This is a taste of professional racing where you have to have a crew that changes tires quickly, refuels, and if anything happens to the car, they are able to adapt. There is a lot of strategy involved. There is also a lot of teamwork. This event is important because it would prepare aspiring drivers mentally, and physically for national racing.
The rest of the night, I heard numerous other accounts from the team; enough to fill a novel. Jason Choachuy described in great detail the sound and vibrations from the Global Cup Car’s transmission when he lost 3rd gear as he was riding the berms of the last few corners of the track. Antonio Brias described the silence of his run when his radio channel was inadvertently switched and communications from the pit were not coming through.
More than the stories of driving and of speed, the room was filled with camaraderie, an esprit de corps that only the most adverse challenges seem to bring out in people. The satisfaction in their faces was clear, from working shoulder-to-shoulder with each other to achieve the win. The greater the difficulties to overcome, the greater the sense of achievement and the sweeter the celebration.
I raised another glass to celebrate with them.