Rally Malaysia (Negeri Sembilan 2013) Experience

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Away we go off the ceremonial start/finish ramp to finally get a taste of Malaysian Rallying!

After 10 years of winning the national championship in rallying back in 2003, getting back into a rallycar and doing a proper rally felt surreal. Rallying on a sad note had become nearly forgotten for the next years in local motorsports history after winning the championship. As a teenager back in 2003, I could only patiently wait again for an opportunity to compete in rallies. For me, the dream was to be a successful rally driver locally and move on to the next logical step of rallying internationally.

“I had to prepare myself mentally and physically for Malaysia’s tough conditions.”

The confirmation of that opportunity arrived in less than a week of competition late in 2013. Right from that time on, it was crunch time. I had to prepare myself mentally and physically for Malaysia’s tough conditions. Aside from preparing myself, looking for finances and support had to be done in less than a month. It was difficult yet here was an opportunity I was not willing to pass.

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Negeri Sembilan’s parc ferme with all the other competitors’ vehicles.

I was invited to compete in the International Rally of Negeri Sembilan. It was the 4th round of the Malaysian National Rally Championship. Over there were very good local Malaysian rally drivers and experienced FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) contenders from China and New Zealand who were also in the field of competitors. I found this opportunity as a very good way to measure up to regional standards of rallying. Having to run here would suit us up to learn more about rallying internationally.

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Proton Satria Neo 1600 in Fawster Motorsport HQ.

I was set to drive in a Proton Satria Neo 1600. It was in fact a car that competed in the 2011 APRC. It was the car of Gunaseelan Rajoo, a champion rally driver from Malaysia who lent his personal rally car. Unfortunately before the rally, I did not have an opportunity to properly test it making circumstances again difficult. The car felt familiar though as the car settings were close to the rallycars I used to drive, and I could feel that the car was built like a tank. For me, the aim of driving a sponsored car was to be sure it comes back in one piece.

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Final meeting before we head to Negeri Sembilan for the next day’s recce.

When I got to Malaysia, I looked and fitted myself into the rallycar on the first day. The following day we talked to the team, settled our final plans for the rally and set on to go to Negeri Sembilan. On the third day we did recce (survey of the rally route) and in the same evening it was the official flag-off.

As much as I’d like to go directly talk about the rally, much of the analysis of the rally terrain came during the recce. The terrain was very muddy and inside the famous palm plantations of Negeri Sembilan. It was also very confusing as everything looked alike which made us difficult to get our bearings right. I was told to watch out for many dangers such as hidden culverts, hidden tree stomps and huge ditches. All this we confirmed during recce, in fact we even became a victim of getting stuck in the Malaysia’s notorious wet clay after sliding off the road.

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Sunbathing in the middle of no where during recce in SS3. The light contrast mud made it difficult to read the road. Something unique in Malaysia terrain.

We did however, finish the recce but I wasn’t completely satisfied with the pace notes we made after recce, nor with my memory of how the track was going to look like by the time we start the rally. So on the night before the rally, I tried recalling the minimal testing with the car, the terrain I had to run, the pace notes to be called, and the emotions I had to control to coordinate the likely outcome of how I will drive the nest day. Like I said, there wasn’t really any time to sit down, relax, or even pinch myself to remind me that this was not a cloudy dream anymore.

“The first stage was very dramatic with so many things happening at the same time.”

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First corner of Special Stage 1.

Nevertheless, the rally had started the next day and we had to do with all the information we had. The first stage went on the way, and I was starting 17th on the road. Problems right from stage 1 were already arising. Our intercom radio inside the car wasn’t working, and that meant I wasn’t able to hear my navigator. Most of the first stage had to be driven with my memory which is quite difficult when you have more than a hundred things to remember in 15 kilometers at full rally speeds. I also knew that I wasn’t completely in tune with the car as I could feel the rear of the car bouncing a bit too much and eventually I also hit the front of the car a bit too hard against a ditch. The first stage was very dramatic with so many things happening at the same time. While everything could go wrong on the first stage, I finally decided to back off a bit as my intuition was that things were getting too dangerous. We finished a measly 21st on the first stage. Definitely not the fairy tale story I was expecting.

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On board on SS2. One of the enjoyable stages in the rally.

As the 2nd stage came we fixed the intercom a bit, and I now knew exactly how the car would react. I placed better and from there on started to be comfortable and see where I could place myself into the rally. During the third stage I had to watch out as this was where we got stuck in the mud during recce and it was the roughest of stages in the whole rally. By the 4th stage, the shortest at 7kms, Malaysia’s humidity was finally getting a toll on us. We were becoming dehydrated inside the already hot racing suit and rally car, while the noon time heat wasn’t helping at all. We got to finish that stage satisfied with our progress at 14th in stage 4, and 15th over-all.

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Mid-day service area.

By the time we got to the service park, I was already very dehydrated and was already getting chills. Luckily, I was able to recover over the 40 minute service break we had. The car suspension though had a bit of a problem which eventually was fixed and fastened again properly. With the first 4 stages done, I now knew what we had to do to survive the rally. It eventually became a rally to survive rather than just focusing on our speed and the results. Stages 5 to 8 would be a repeat of 1 to 4 and we eventually improved in pace throughout the rally. By the end of the day, we maintained 15th overall out of 25.

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Risking to push just a bit more on the final stage of the rally! A good thing, since times were too close between me and the next car.

The 2nd day was exciting again as finally I had got into my senses and could finally appreciate more of what I was doing. Our goal was to bring the car back safely and again bring up the pace. We went through a trouble free day and really enjoyed the final day. My plan was to push on stages 9 and 11 since it was a repeat of stage 2. While stages 10 and 12 were to be taken with more caution as this was a repeat of stage 3. I reminded myself that I had to exercise caution so that I could have the suspension last until the end of the rally. Eventually I did push a bit more on the final stage. And it was a good thing because the next car behind us only finished around 7 seconds behind. In the end, we didn’t get our dream result of getting inside the top 10, a record I wanted to do. But we managed 12th place on our first try and in such difficult conditions.

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Philippine Team with Fawster Motorsports and Malaysia Rally Organizers well intact on the finish ramp!

After doing this rally, it has opened many situations of actually competing in more rallies around the region. But better yet, maybe this could hopefully get others into enjoying this car rallying as a sport again sometime soon. I’m not just keen on rallying for myself. Hopefully with this campaign, we can start bringing rallying back to the Philippines!

A Hope for New Years Rallying

So I recently just did an International Rally in Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia late 2013.

It was a 10 year hiatus from being and feeling on top when I was 18 years old and winning my first national title in 2003. I remember tweeting a “#flashbackfriday” (follow @ivanisada), about it later in 2013.

This wasn’t my first taste of international rallying, as I was looking for a possible rally career back in California, United States with the Rim of the World Rally in 2005.

Life, school, and another sport happened such as volleyball. While rallying, had its difficulty here in the Philippines with having too many on and off seasons with rallycross and sprint rallies.

That has not kept the dream away. Preparation through competing in local motorsports events could still help me if and when I start again to rally in either Malaysia, New Zealand or both.

In December 2013, part of that dream had become reality again with an actual drive in the International Rally of Negeri Sembilan. It has been 18 years since there was a Filipino who had run in an International Malaysian Rally. That made me proud to be the first in a long time to be rallying in Malaysia. That’s me, car number 17!

malaysia foiWhat made me even more proud was the fact that I had brought my father, Vip Isada, along to help manage my team. He was recognized by many Malaysians as a very good rally driver who had competed in Malaysia. We were actually surprised how much respect they had given him. My father drove for Petronas Eon Racing Team (PERT) in 1995 in the APRC Round of Rally Malaysia. Dad was actually the last one to run here in Malaysia and he was car number 17 too!

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PERT17foi2The coincidence of it was that when he also ran in 1987 in Malaysia with the Conge, a local fabricated car from the Philippines that the Malaysians recall as being “that funny looking car”, he was also car number 17!

congeMYsfoi1With all the International Rally of Negeri Sembilan done, we are hoping for better years of rallying to come. Hopefully this kick-starts more possible dreams for international and local rallying!

2014, 2015, 2016, etc… Let’s see.

Some Personal Trivia: I’ve been asked several times for the reason in choosing my volleyball jersey number #17 back in college… this was because of Dad’s car plate number during his time rallying in Malaysia!

My New Awesome Weekend Work

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Start of the final leg of the PTCC.

After having completed my FIA training and doing safety car duties from the last PTCC round, an extra opportunity for a promotion to be steward had presented itself. Being a steward at my prime age of still being able to be competitive in motor racing had to be looked over by the local motorsports board. I was pretty sure there was no further question with the training I had undergone, and the line of work as I currently work in education and sports. Added to this was the fact that all the stewards were important people who had helped me in building my motorsports career. This addressed the massive respect of working together. It was also a huge honor of actually having the motorsports director’s blessing to officiate and practice the theories we learned from the FIA training.

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Safety car doing the final checks on the race track. Not playing!

This weekend race though was the last of the series and everyone in the racing world knows just what can or even will happen on the final weekend when people need to be jockeying for position to earn their much needed points for their respective championships. Accidents. It did happen and it came early on the Saturday races where I doubled up again as safety car driver and of course a steward of the race. In race 10, the third to the last race of the season, saw two separate red flags being called on the opening lap, and the re-start lap. Multiple car touching happened on the first lap, and a rollover in the middle of the pack in the track happened on the second re-start.

Upside down PTCC race car after the re-start of race 10.

Recalling this situation had me assessing the situation and relaying it to race control. Stopping the safety car in a safe position, looking to see for back-up from post marshals, seeing if the driver was in a safe condition, turning the kill-switch of the race car off, and assessing how we could get the race back on track as soon as possible.

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Marshals turning the car over and placing it in a safer place of the race track to quickly resume racing.

One of the on the spot decisions that I had to do as a steward and advised by the Motorsport Operations Manager of AAP was my consideration of having to place the race car in a safer place to continue racing, and the deciding the safety and condition of the track after the car involved had also spilled oil at the exit of the hairpin. I had to advise race control and the other stewards of the estimated time of when the track would be prepared for the race cars to be able to pass without the oil spill possibly affecting the outcome of the race.

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Covering the oil spill with cement caused during collision at the exit of the hairpin.

Eventually things got done after around 30 minutes more or less. After all the incidents in race 10… the following races the next day were a breeze as a race official. The teams and drivers toned their aggressiveness down and kept their racing clean. Good, clean proper racing for the final two races of the season. At the end, the only other dilemma was having to collect all computer boxes of the cars due to a scrutineering technicality. But after the weekend, so far there haven’t been any huge problems yet as told by the senior officials and my superiors. This of course is something I hope maintains so as long as the race drivers have good respect for each other, right judgement with their race craft, and also respect the sporting code.

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Collection of computer boxes for scrutineer after all the races over the weekend.

 

Third Overall in the ARCC with Team HYUNDAI

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Flag-off with our winning Hyundai Accent Hatchback CRDi.

This year, the Auto Rally Corporate Challenge (ARCC) was a 2-part series. We were able to capture third place in the individual awards during the first leg of the ARCC in Tagaytay. And we surprisingly managed to do the same again in this Subic leg. Sorry to cut story short unlike on the previous post of the ARCC. It just so happened things became a bit more intense as of right from the start when we collected several demerits. Being an all time on the time rally, we mismanaged our check out time at the start of the rally and we supposedly were two minutes late by the first check point but ended up a minute early. Again sorry for the fast driving, hehe! But this stressed out the whole crew. It is a good thing that we got it on trying to do better by the next check points and still ended up with a perfect time by the 4th check point. We knew competition would be intense during this round as there were many veterans already who knew how to play this supposed leisurely motorsport activity. With the big mistake right at the start, we didn’t expect anything more than the perfect time award on check point 4. Surprisingly, other main competitors had made mistakes on time computation and we ended up 2nd place in the Beta route over-all and again another 3rd place in the Individual Awards of the Subic leg! I guess we kept Hyundai happy. Thanks to them, another partnership for 2014 seems to be a good one!

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Prepping up with Hyundai livery before the rally. Photo by Alan Ranch Sevilla

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Scanning Subic that we don’t run over any monkeys and he doesn’t steal my Vape!

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Inside Naval Mag and mentoring our teammates in the Elantra.

         

FIA Officials Practical Training in Clark International Speedway

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Since 2012, the Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP) has been constantly contacting us over for training under the Federation Internationale de Automobile (FIA)  Institute with their appointed trainors from the Confederation of Australian Motorsport (CAMS). During those training sessions, we had several indoor training courses and a practical training course in the Clark race track.

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This 2013, the training had been carried over to see to it that car racing in the Philippines had improved due to increased safety, better implementation of rules, and better official coordination that are up to date with modern racing. It was held over the mid season race weekend of the Philippine Touring Car Championship (PTCC).

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I for one had been the few lucky ones to attend all the training. For our final practicals… I was lucky to be the only one assigned to observe from the safety car’s passenger seat of how the race would be run from this perspective. However, the stewards and motorsports director of AAP appointed me as the safety car driver for the Sunday races after a few laps around the circuit riding shot gun for track inspection prior to the race.

Motorsports Director: Ivan, you’re a rated driver right? (referring to me being a licensed rally driver and a national champion awarded by AAP)

Ivan: Yes sir.

Motorsports Director: Okay, you are now the safety car driver.

Ivan: What?! Okay, cool…

Marshaling Mazdas

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Out of no where I received a call being invited to marshal an event for Mazda. The usual fuel economy run programs had landed me an unfamiliar backseat passenger ride with friends of the motoring world. It was all too good to know that I was lucky on this one to sit in the luxurious Mazda 6′s comfy seats. That meant marshaling like a boss! All too cool.

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Shell had also collaborated with supplying the fuel for the econo-runs in city leg in Metro Manila, and the SCTEX highway of three parts averaging 60 KPH, 80 KPH, and 100 KPH.

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Mazda also had their half-time show from the traffic boredom to let out some pedal to the metal action with their “beat the time of Mazda’s poster racing girl, Michelle Bumgarner.” You simply just had to post the closest go-kart time!

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Aside from the Mazda 6 the CX5, 2wd and 4wd variants were available too, together with their Skyactiv and I-stop technology to help fuel economy.

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Along the journey also, Mazda also let in their compassionate side of helping in their Gawad Kalinga housing program. A good social effort not just on mobility but to people’s livelihood as well.

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Autocross 2013 Continued

IMG_0327The continuation of the 2013 Philippine Autocross Championship Series (PACS) has proved to be too much for top results and wins with the tiny 1.3 liter Honda City. With driving this car, it has already proven so much in other tougher motorsports events such as winning in the 2011′s RallyEKross, and Group 1 title in the 2012 Metro Hill Climb Club of the Philippines. This year, class podium finishes were still in shape for the 2013 PACS with runner-up awards in the Experience Stock A and the All Honda class.

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Rest assured the main reason for participating in this event was not the number of wins the car and myself could achieve but the possibilities of how much fun one could run a stock 1.3, daily driven, LPG-powered Honda City. Hopefully our runs inspire other motorsports enthusiasts with the knowledge that motorsports doesn’t have to be too expensive and can still maintain quality satisfaction from joining.

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                                                                                                            Photo by Robert Tan

In my part as I have always mentioned in promotion of Philippine Autocross, the reason for me as a rally driver competing in this event is to continue practicing my driving skills for future rally events. Learning and understanding the car, and pushing near the limits are always something that should be noted for future reference as a rally driver.

PACS organizer, Danny Santiago who is also a slalom champion, has also mentioned his mission for organizing PACS,  “I want the young guys to start out from autocross racing. This is a venue where they can start their racing careers.”

I missed round 7 since my commitment to autocross has served its purpose of keeping my skills as a rally driver. Preparation for outside events and a possible international rally event in Malaysia (a preview to one of my future posts in this blog) was able to push through. So from autocross to a brighter motorsports future. So see you in 2014 PACS!

Round 4: Ever Gotesco, Ortigas

Round 5: Robinsons Novaliches

Round 6: SM South Mall, Las Pinas