Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Championship Battle Tightens at Petron FlatOut Race Series Round 5


With half of the 2018 season now done, the battles in the Petron FlatOut Race Series (Petron FORS) are really tightening up as the country’s premier grassroots motorsports event returned to the Batangas Racing Circuit (BRC) last July 14.

Round 5 was plagued by intermittent weather all day, with sessions run in both wet and dry conditions. This allowed for exciting on-track action in the Time Attack and Grid races, specially when the top drivers are now fighting for the championship title.

Sanctioned by the Automobile Association Philippines (AAP), Rafael la O’ and Dondon Portugal once again swept up the fastest times in Time Attack. But the main show were the in lower Grid races where the top drivers in each class squabbled for position. Andre Tan, Robert Tan, Errol Panganiban were unseparable throughout Grid D, while Mars Ocampo and Kody Ng broke out of Grid E bracket times during their chase. Lone lady driver Gabie Desales also had a good performance, earning a podium spot in Bracket G.

Time Attack

Dondon Portugal set the fastest time of the day with the Maptan Logistics–supported Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7. Portugal lapped the long course in 1:43.239 to take the top spot in Bracket R on slick tires. Rafael la O’ in the Staunch Performance Honda Civic EK came a close 2nd with his 1:44.342 lap.

Switching to street tires, this time it was la O’s turn to lead the Bracket A sheets with a 1:47.023 time. Portugal, running GT Radial SX2 tires, was only 0.570 sec behind in 2nd. Eduardo Suiza in the W-Autosport / Staging Lanes Honda Civic EG came in a distant 3rd. La O’ currently holds a slim 6 point lead over Suiza with 3 rounds to go.

Nicolo Fernandez in the Forcedspeed Honda EG eked out a narrow victory over Paolo Santos in Bracket B with a 0.048 sec margin. Bubi Camus ended up in 3rd driving a turbo-charged Mazda MX-5. Paul Santos had a soft breakout in Bracket C but his next fastest allowed time still allowed him to take 1st in class. Julian Diego finished 2nd and Armand Marcaida took the last podium spot.

Errol Panganiban of Car Porn Racing returned to his trusty Mazda MX-5 ND to win Bracket D. But Robert Tan still leads the championship by 23 points with his 2nd place finish. Steve Travers then came in 3rd. In Bracket E, Royce Sarmiento obtained a near-perfect bracket time of 2:05.029, finishing ahead of Mark Anton David and Jack Saquilayan.

Bracket F had the largest group of competitors of the day. Amiel Del Mundo claimed 1st place to hold onto a slim 4 point lead over Kody Ng in 2nd, followed by Francisco Blanco in 3rd. Then for Bracket G, AAP MSDP graduate and lady driver Gabie Desales did well to take 2nd spot against victor Allen Escoto. Desales now has a 16 point advantage in class on her FORS debut season.

The 86 Club Class’s podium consisted of Christopher Co, followed by Raffy Rabe and Paul Cusi.

Grid Race

Heavy rains during the combined Grids A, B, and C race made the 10-lap sprint into a treacherous dance on slippery tarmac. Sadly, despite qualifying 2nd, Eduardo Suiza had to sit it out on the sidelines due to mechanical problems. This made the Petron Grid A a battle between Dondon Portugal and Rafael la O’. Portugal encountered problems with his car and retired on lap 6, giving the win to la O’ who further extends his title chase over Suiza.

But it wasn’t an easy drive as KYB Grid B driver Paul Henderson Perez hounded la O’ all the way to the chequered flag. Perez finished 1 min 31.308 secs ahead of Bubi Camus and Nicolo Fernandez who had a great battle for 2nd place.

Paul Santos, Julian Diego, Carlos Marzo and John Benedict Carbonel were the top contenders in Recaro Grid C. An unplanned wheel change hampered Santos’ race, handing the win to Carbonel in his yellow Honda Civic EK hatchback. Diego and Marzo finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

Held in dry conditions, the Staunch Performance Grid D and SmartFuels 2 Race Grid E race was packed with excitement from its 15-car field.

Errol Panganiban, Andre Tan, and Robert Tan was nose-to-tail throughout 8 laps. Panganiban looked to be in control but a late clean pass by Andre Tan earned him the win in Grid D. Robert chose to play it safe to hold onto a 3rd place finish. Andre now leads with 83 points, followed by Robert with 65, and Errol with 51.

Jeff Pobadora claimed 1st place in Grid E at the expense of Kody Ng and Mars Ocampo. Ng and Ocampo were the first to the finish line. However, both broke out of their brackets and dropped down the order due to penalties. Despite this, they still took the remaining 2 podium spots. Amiel Del Mundo still holds onto 1st in the championship standings, but Ocampo and Ng are still close behind.

The Petron FlatOut Race Series’s next event will return to Clark International Speedway on August 11, 2018 for Round 6, run in conjunction with the Formula V1 Challenge.

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