Before things got underway
Just before the rally began, the team huddled together in the cold breezy morning where our silly jokes, over boosted egos, and the company of good friends kept us warm. And besides our teammates, the wonderful people from Ford Group Philippines (FGP) travelled the distance just so that they could cheer us on. Along with the other 15 teams and 56 cars on the grid, we were prepped up and ready to go.
With route books given way before the start of the rally, we all had the luxury of time to compute for each checkpoint's interval. John Camus and Rene Mapua even had the liberty to take the top off their yellow Mazda MX-5 and enjoy the weather. But in our true competitive nature, Jade Lu wasted no time and started crunching on the numbers. Surprisingly though for first-timers, Danny Pancho, Vergel Domingo, and Henry Uy looked calm and collected in their aurora blue Ford Fiesta.
After the ceremonies, welcoming remarks, and the mandatory group photos, one by one, we were flagged off to begin the day-long rally.
As the first stage unfolded, Jade was still intensely hitting the numbers as I anxiously called out directions. We were both pumped up with so much adrenaline, that the atmosphere inside the car started to become tense. Ferman, on the other hand, who was simply frolicking in his own dreamland, grabbed a bag of chips and munched away as we approached the next checkpoint. Apparently, all he had to do was to keep us on the road and listen to our commands.
Although the work is now made easier with three people on board, navigating through the route book was still no walk in the park. There were moments when I was caught with my pants down and almost got us lost, and times of chaos whenever we tired to figure out if we were on time or not. Still, the team spirit held us strong and kept us on track and on time as best we can.
After the morning's six checkpoints, we were back at the airport for a quick lunch break and some time to rest. It gave us an opportunity to catch up on some small talk and recharge our bodies, but in a blink of an eye, we were back in the car and back on the road.
The afternoon's session saw us go through another six gruelling checkpoints. By this time, we've already got the groove of the rally which should have made things a lot easier. However, mental and physical fatigue began to take its toll. I started to become cranky; Jade got nauseous; and Ferman was getting bored. But at last, we made it to the last checkpoint and finished the rally.
When the rally was over, people were no longer as chatty as they were in the morning, and everyone looked a bit haggard. And since awarding won't be announced until a week later, there wasn’t much need for us to lounge around, so we packed up and headed home. Ferman and I traded places so he can just relax in the back seat with a fresh bag of chips, and I was left to enjoy the long drive home in the Fiesta.
Surprisingly, traversing the SCTEX at 100 km/h in the dinky Fiesta was a breeze. A car this small would normally wallow around at such high speeds and required the driver to hold the wheel tightly. The Fiesta, however, only needed minimal supervision, as it changed lanes with the slightest persuasion. The stiff suspension also kept everything pointed straight, but it somewhat compromised passenger comfort. We also expected that the 1.6 liter Duratec engine would be a bit more economical as the two way trip to Subic combined with a rally that only averaged 30 km/h yielded an efficiency of 12.5 km/L.
In our short outing, we have discovered that the Fiesta is a car made for both form and function. The sexy hatchback had enough space for our overnight luggage plus some groceries. It also came well-equipped with a 6-speaker sound system, bluetooth wireless connectivity, and a multi-function display. Add in a sporty rear spoiler and chrome accentuated fog lamps and you've got winner looks.
Five days after the rally, it was finally D-Day. All the teams banded together once more at the Valle Verde Country Club in Pasig City to find out if they've won or not. The entire Ford / Mazda team came with our heads held high as we felt that victory was already in our hands. AVP Communications for Ford Group Philippines, Anika Salceda-Wycoco, even came in sparkling gold high heels in anticipation of victory. I bet she rehearsed how to jump high in the air and click her heels on top of the podium.
So, did we win? Uhh...sadly, no. This was team Motor Image Philippines’s year, as their troupe of four Subaru's took the championship trophy away from us. But on the bright side, the group of Joel Lago, Ray Reyes, and Aaron Ravana in their silver Mazda CX-7 did win best time in checkpoint 4 in the rally. At least there's something to be happy about, right? Ferman, Jade, and I also finished in a respectable 20th place and the team 7th overall.
Finishing this far from victory wasn't what the team had in mind, but at least we all got a great adventure at the 2011 STV Auto Rally Corporate Challenge. Kudos to the entire STV team of sir Ray Butch Gamboa and the group of Georges Ramirez, Mikko David, and Patrick Chua who spent countless sleepless nights, just so we can go rallying.
After a few bottles of beer and a couple dozen sarcastic jokes to shake off the shame, the team members finally said our goodbyes and ended the night. See you guys again at the 2012 STV Auto Rally!
More photos from the 2011 STV Auto Rally Corporate Challenge: