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25 February 2013

Manila to host International GT3 Street Race in June 2013

Words and photos by Christopher Kho
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The first-ever Manila Grand Prix was held more than 40 years ago on July 1970 that raced on a street circuit based on roads that surrounded Luneta Park. It was heralded as the golden age of Philippine motorsports, and for the longest time, was thought to be one of the last times that an international street race of its caliber would ever grace the Philippines. But on June 2013, we're finally back on the global racing scene as the nation's capital hosts the very first GT3 Race Manila.
2010 Asia GT3 Champion Dilantha Malagamuwa and Price of Malaysia Khairul Zaim even flew to Manila just to make the announcement official. They were joined by none-other-than Manila City Mayor Alfredo Lim and Executive Director for National Parks Development Committee Juliet Horfilla Villegas.
Race Setup
The GT3 Race Manila is scheduled on June 15 to 16, 2013. 15 cars are expected to arrive to race with drivers coming from Japan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, and Hong Kong. While they still have yet to confirm the roster of teams and drivers, they're pretty sure that the grid will be comprised of 500 horsepower GT3 race cars such as Aston Martin DBRS9s, Porsche 911s, Ferrari 458s, McLaren MP4-12Cs, and Lamborghini Gallardos. And to raise the Philippine flag on track, Filipino drivers JP and younger brother Mike Tuason are now in talks with BMW for a drive.
gt3manila groupMalagamuwa told us that there will be two practice and one qualifying run on Saturday, and two 15 to 20 lap races on Sunday. This year's event will be an exhibition race for the organizers to gauge how successful the event will be when they make Manila a regular stop in the GT3 Race Asia calendar starting in 2014. Yes, you read that right. Manila could one day host an annual international street circuit race just like Macau, Singapore, and Monaco.
Apart from the main race, the organizers are also contemplating about support races and other activities in the surrounding areas. It is still undecided though if they will be charging admission for the event.
“There is a lot to like about the city of Manila. We also believe that there is a huge following of car racing in the Philippines. Manila would be an ideal location when we add a new leg to GT Race Asia,” said Prince Khairul Zaim.
On Track
Parts of Manila will be closed down to put up the 2.7 km street circuit that will go around Luneta Park. Technical Consultant Rolly Relanes explains to us that concrete safety barriers will have to be installed with metal fencing for safety. Spectators, on the other hand, will stand no less than 5 meters away from the track. Relanes also assures that only a small portion of the circuit needs to be resurfaced. And for those wondering about traffic caused by the road closure, the MMDA is closely working with the Manila City hall to layout a rerouting scheme. On top of that, portions of the circuit will be opened to vehicular traffic at certain parts of the day to help improve the congestion.
"This is a golden opportunity for us to showcase what Manila can offer. We assure the organizers that our city engineer will take care of [the road condition]. We will follow [the race organizer's] specifications. [The City of Manila] will provide security and traffic control not only for the safety of the racers, but also the spectators," said Manila City Mayor Alfredo Lim.
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The start/finish line will be situated right in front of the Quirino Grandstand, then right to Katigbak Drive. From there, all 15 cars will thunder past the historic Manila Hotel through Padre Burgos St. and are expected to reach 250 km/h on the 650 m stretch. They then brake for a right hander to Maria Orosa St, right to T.M. Kalaw, and right again to Roxas Blvd. From there, it's a short sprint to the hairpin in front of the Rizal Monument before going back along Roxas Blvd. It's then a quick right turn to South Drive, followed by another right to Parade Ave and back onto the start/finish straight.
Filipino Pride
Apart from karting, it's been a while since the Philippine has hosted an international motorsports event this big. And with the amount of visitors it will attract, not to mention ESPN's coverage that's televised to over 120 countries, our country will surely be back on the map. The organizers of the GT3 Race Manila also have full support from the Philippine government which means less issues with red tape.
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This event will also largely benefit the City of Manila. Not only is the race scheduled after the Philippine Independence day, but is also only a week ahead of “Araw ng Maynila” (Manila Day).
"We are very much honored to host [the GT3 Race] in Manila. Manila has a lot of history, iconic places and buildings, including the Manila Bay and Roxas Blvd where you can find the nicest sunset," commented Executive Director for National Parks Development Committee Juliet Horfilla Villegas.