May 10, 2017

"Drive fast, you lose-drive precise, you win"

That's the mantra to follow to keep instep with the veterans of "on time, all the time" rally competitions like the STV Auto Rally Corporate Challenge (ARCC), with this year's staging scheduled this Saturday, May 13 in Subic.

Conceived and first staged in Europe, this type of road rally that is based on precision driving rather than speed was known as 'Tulip Rally' considering that its route is designed to make it end where it starts, which when drawn looks like a tulip petal.

When it was introduced to the Philippines during the60s, nationalistic motorsports buffs renamed it 'Sampaguita Rally' for local color. And for a while it was the premier motorsport event, running almost the entire stretch of Luzon that was participated in by motorsports exponents and personalities like the country's"racing legend", the latePocholo Ramirez together with Dante Silverio, Mandy Eduque, to name just a very few.

The objective of the competition is to come closest to the prescribed time to traverse given routes. The participants only get to know the timelines and rally route (described by signs and written instructions) one (1) minute before flag off. Demerits are meted for every second of discrepancy-early or late arrival at 'time checkpoints'. The team that registers the least number of demerits at the end of the rally wins. Special awards are given to those that register 'perfect times' in any of several time checkpoints.

Admittedly this "half a century old" motorsport has been overtaken by modern technology with computers and programs and appts readily accessible and available. However, the organizers and rally managers with the end view of keeping the competitive excitement of the sport have strict rules that prohibit its use and even mere presence inside the participating vehicles with outright disqualification as penalty.

Another strict rule makes this competition ideal to promote driver discipline and road safety. Considering that a great part of the rally route is run through public roads, any participant that is caught by traffic authorities or rally marshals violating any traffic regulation, especially over speeding during the rally gets disqualified. And depending on the severity of the violation may be required to discontinue running to prevent the participant from being a danger to others on the road. This makes for the event's social relevance counting it as one of the major advocacy projects of Socio Com Foundation for Asi a and Sunshine Television in their continuing quest to aggressively promote road safety awareness.

Participation in the STV ARCC (first held in 2001 running through scenic areas of Tagaytay, Cavite and Batangas) is limited to teams from the country's automobile manufacturers, importers and distributors. EachCorporate Rally Team may field a maximum of four (4) vehicles of their brands and a minimum of three ( 3) to be considered an official competing team, with each participating vehicle manned by a driver, a time navigator and a route navigator (max. of three in a vehicle with a minimum of two, with one doubling as time and route navigator). The participating companies have the option to assign whoever they would like to compose their teams-customers, media, company executives, friends, etc. with the designated drivers strictly required to be legally licensed.

This event presently holds the distinction of being the only one in the country where automobile companies openly compete against each other. Exceling in this type of road rally is largely determined by the team members' instinctive route navigation capabilities, intuitive mathematical time computations and skillful driving, none of which can be achieved with the help of an outstanding performance of any vehicle model. By and large winning is not because of the rally vehicle although car reliability, maneuverability together with driving and riding comfort may be significant contributing factors. However the mere presence or participation in the yearly event could be a win-win situation. It can serve as an auto company's showcase of new car models in the market. Bonding and camaraderie among industry players and executives during the event is an unquantifiable factor. Historically, there has always been keen but sportsmanlike and friendly competition among participants of any STV ARCC event.

Olongapo Mayor Rolen Paulino and this writer flagging off the 2016 STV ARCC in front of Harbor Point Mall in Subic

With the continuing support of Harbor Point Mall, admittedly a very professional group to work and partner with lead byDerrick Manuel andArgee Gomez, there's no better place for aparc ferme and flag off area in Subic. There will be a total of 110 rally drivers and navigators to man the eleven (11)Corporate Rally Teams with close to 40 flashy brand new car models at the starting grid from the country's top automobile brands, namely, Audi, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Isuzu, Lexus, Mini, Nissan, Ssangyong, Subaru and Tata.

Rally Director Georges Ramirez in tandem with IT expert Patrick Chua again promise a very challenging route with exciting prescribe time requirements on Saturday.

There is an established tradition in the STV ARCC that whoever wins the Corporate Rally Team Award for three years, not necessarily consecutive gets to keep permanently theSTV ARCC Champion's Cup. To date only the MINI Corporate Rally Team captained by multi-brand auto industry leader Willy Tee Ten has that distinction and permanently the cup by winning in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Immediately after, the Subaru Corporate Rally Team broke MINI's wining streak in 2015, but Willy 's dedicated road warriors immediately came back to the podium last year. It would be interesting to know what the narrative would be this year between these two keenly competing teams.

Rally Chief Steward Georges Ramirez together and this writer with the MINI Rally Team, winner of 2016 STV ARCC

But the victors should not rest on their laurels, as competition gets keener by the year. Proof of this is the number of 'perfect times' being registered, which is definitely encouragingly increasing by the year-everybody's improving and getting better being "on time, all the time".

Happy Motoring!!!

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Ray Butch Gamboa graduated from the College of Arts and Letters of the University of Sto. Tomas. It was a course that should have been preparatory to a law degree, but the call of broadcasting aborted his plans.

At the age of 16, while still a student, Butch tried his hand at disc jockeying, landing a job at Mareco Broadcasting Network’s AM stations DZBM and DZLM. From there, Butch moved on with his illustrious career as a popular disc jockey, riding the airwaves of Bob Stewart’s middle-of-the-road music at DZXX, and ending his disc jockeying career at ABS-CBN’s DZYL and DZQL.

From there, he stayed on with ABS-CBN, covering live the proceedings at the Manila Stock Exchange and eventually entered into the world of television sales as an account manager for the premier channel of ABS-CBN Channel 2.

In the early 70’s, at the outbreak of Martial Law, Butch was one of the thousands of professionals who woke up jobless when then President Marcos declared the new status of the nation. With the closure of ABS-CBN, Butch ventured into different fields outside of broadcast. He tried his hand and with ease and success at export (Costume jewelry), real estate (brokerage), and restaurants (fast food).

In 1987, after the revolution, with the broadcast industry back to its free state, and with its irresistible call ringing in his ears, Butch made his inevitable comeback and pioneered in a local motoring show, producing Motoring Today on Channel 4 and co-hosting with local motor sports’ living legend Pocholo Ramirez.

After 4 years, he ventured into another pioneering format by producing and hosting Business & Leisure, which was originally aired on ABS-CBN’s Channel 2. The format eventually espoused similar ones in other different channels. But the clones in due course faded away leaving the original staying on airing on Channel 4 and eventually on Shop TV on Sky Cable’s Channel 13.

The following year, the pioneering spirit in Butch spurred him to produce another TV show, Race Weekend, also on Channel 4, covering circuit racing at the Subic International Raceway after the motor sport’s hiatus of 17 years. But when similar shows with duplicated formats sprouted, he decided to give way and ended the program after a year, although still enjoying unparalleled viewership.

In 1998, when the local automotive industry was in a slump, Butch contributed his share to help the ailing industry by producing another popular motoring-related show, this time exclusive to the automobile and its industry—Auto Focus, which became a vehicle for local automotive assemblers and importers to showcase their products and dwell on the industry’s latest technological developments.

In 2003, Butch teamed up with his brother, Rey Gamboa who was a former Shell executive and presently one Philippine Star’s business columnist to co-produce and co-host the TV show Breaking Barriers on Channel 13. It is a talk show that features guests who are in the news and in the middle of controversies. The program ventures to draw deeper insights into current issues to learn how they impact to our daily lives.

Today, Motoring Today on its 28th year of service to the general motoring public still enjoys its unprecedented loyal vierwership nationwide while Auto Focus, after 16 years has firmly established its niche viewership among automobile enthusiasts and on the other hand Business & Leisure is on its 24th year dishing out current business issues and lifestyle features.

Today, aside from writing weekly columns for the Philippine Star (Motoring Today on Wednesdays and Business & Leisure on Saturdays) and executive producer / host of weekly TV shows (Motoring Today, airs Sundays on Solar Sports Channel 70, Business & Leisure, airs Tuesdays on Shop TV, Sky Cable Channel 13 and Auto Focus airs Thursdays on Shop TV, Sky Cable Channel 13, Ray Butch Gamboa is currently the Chairman and CEO of Sunshine Television Production and Marketing Services Corp., President of Gamcor Management and Development Corp., Chairman of Asia-Pacific Realty Corporation, President and Chairman of Socio-Communication Foundation for Asia and Founding Chairman of the Society of Phil. Motoring Journalists (SPMJ)