A day in the life of a Philippine autocross racer

When I say my life revolves around cars, I really mean it.

My day job is here at AutoFun Philippines, putting into comprehensible (and sometimes amusing) words the latest and greatest in the motoring scene, from road closures to the coolest electric vehicles.

But on weekends, you will usually find me at a race track or a parking lot because, over the last four years, I have been an active racing driver.

This story is about my last race of the 2022 season – Round 10 of the Philippine Autocross Championship Series (PACS) at Clark International Speedway – and how getting into motorsports isn’t as hard as you think.

5:00 a.m.

A loud jingle from my phone jostles me from my restful slumber this early Saturday morning.

While most people are still resting their souls from the hustle and bustle of the work week, I arise, slowly awakening my senses to the long day ahead.

I head to the kitchen to cook luncheon meat and English muffins fried in butter. I’m not sure if you could call this a “breakfast of champions,” but it sure tastes great, especially with slices of American cheese.

With eating done, I accomplish an important routine that I have been doing when I started racing in 2018: stretching.

My figure may not be as lithe as it used to be, but neither was Po from the film Kung Fu Panda. And we all know what that humorous bear could do when he was in the zone.

6:00 a.m.

I step into my race car and hit the road.

While most people think that a racing car needs to be a stripped-out and caged special, mine is an ordinary 1996 BMW 320i with a 5-speed automatic gearbox.

The great thing about grassroots events like PACS is that you can really “run what you brung.” In fact, my German steed only has:

  • A performance air filter

  • High-performance front brake pads and brake fluid

  • Uprated springs that I bought used from a heavier 325i

  • High-performance 16-inch tires on stock BMW mags

  • Special rings that keep the subframes from jostling around

  • A BMW Z3 steering rack, which has a faster ratio than the stock rack

And I get to enjoy air-conditioned comfort and a radio because I still have the full leather interior.

Road-trip music? After a bit of FM radio (that new Nicki Minaj single really is catchy), I move to my beloved flash drive and eat up the miles listening to OPM classics from Zsa Zsa Padilla and MYMP.

7:25 a.m.

Touchdown at Clark International Speedway.

We’re sharing the track today with racers from the Motul Drag ShowDown, who are taking up the main straight. PACS is using the section from the Carousel to near the PIT entrance.

I take time to review the track layout some more. A real hoot this one, with plenty of high-speed sections that will make the most of the BMW’s balanced, rear-wheel-drive handling.

A section of the Clark International Speedway was repurposed as an autocross track. PHOTO BY HAPPYMARCUS DESIGNS

By around 9:15 a.m., PACS race director Danny Santiago calls us all over for the driver’s briefing. After some important reminders and a photo-op, it’s showtime.

And I’m up first.

Philippine Autocross Championship Series organizer, Danny Santiago during the driver’s orientation.

9:30 a.m.

I line up my car at the starting line, ready to finally finish my last race of the year.

For the last 10 months, I have been slugging it out in two categories: Experienced Stock B (for 1600-2000 cc cars) and Automatic Transmission Class, the latter of which I was overall champion in the previous season with the same car.

It’s been tough, especially since my car hardly has any modifications, and the other horses in the race are younger, fresher, and a lot lighter. But the fact that this 26-year-old BMW can still get first place is truly a testament to how well the engineers tuned the chassis.

“Driver ready,” the start marshal calls. My hands tighten their grasp on the leather steering wheel. 

“3, 2, 1, go!” – I take off, letting loose every bit of the 150 PS and 190 Nm of torque that my 2.0-liter, twin-cam, 24-valve inline-6 gasoline engine can give.

Once you get past the lackadaisical start, the 320i girds its loins and ably keeps its momentum through everything from the chicanes to the high-speed sweepers.

I breeze through my four heats of the day, two in each category. Your final time is determined by adding the times of the two heats, so you can’t mess up anywhere.

As I fly through the finish line at the end of my last heat, the adrenaline starts to wash over, and relief sets in – I’m finally done for the year.

10:00 a.m.

My story doesn’t quite end yet.

After I drive, I volunteer to help out the hardworking race officials at PACS with tasks like queuing up the drivers. And, of course, I give some guidance to my teammates. 

I’m part of a small racing team called Angelspeed Motorsports, which has been competing in autocross, grid, rally, and endurance events since February 2021. It also includes my close friends Wyle Binondo and Smilleon Chua (Smill, for short).

VJ, Smill (grey shirt) and Wyle (black shirt), friends brought together by motorsports.


Wyle and Smill are in the same boat as I am – they’ll be running a Mitsubishi Lancer MX in Novice Stock class. They brought nothing to the rodeo but 15-inch mags, performance tires, and uprated suspension.

The engine is the same 1.6-liter, single-cam, 16-valve inline-4 gasoline engine that came with the car decades ago with no special modifications.

Nonetheless, they posted some seriously impressive times, beating out even the modified metal that showed up that cloudy day.

12:45 p.m.

Lunchtime! And I must say, it was sensational.

Young racer Sofia Muñoz (who is gunning for the 2022 PACS Novice Overall title) and her family set up a tent trackside with a vast selection of tasty delicacies like kaldareta, cordon bleu and the perennial party favorite, lumpiang shanghai.

Sofia’s birthday was coming up in a few days, and she decided to celebrate it in advance at the track. We cheerfully enjoyed our meal while the drag cars hurtled into the distance in the background.

Novice title-contender Sofia Muñoz getting ready for her run. PHOTO BY HAPPYMARCUS DESIGNS
Friends off the track and fierce competitors on it, Sofia races an EK Civic. PHOTO BY HAPPYMARCUS DESIGNS

This is one thing that I’ve always enjoyed about PACS: there is a great sense of community and camaraderie that other racing series don’t have.

Meal done, we go back to finish the rest of the race day.

5:00 p.m.

As the last car crosses the line, the 2022 PACS season is officially over.

We help pack the pylons, the tables, and the tents and freshen up for the trip home. 

The late-afternoon sky had a picturesque tinge of orange streaking across it as the sun set. I couldn’t resist taking one last photo of my car before heading off.

7:30 p.m.

Dinner was fantastic – a collection of Kapampangan delicacies like pako salad, sisig, and chicharon bulaklak.

The drive home was also relatively uneventful, except for the usual congestion on the Candaba Viaduct because of ongoing safety upgrades.

What was on the radio this time? I was belting out classics like “Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang” and “Before I Let You Go” from the legendary OPM band Freestyle.

9:00 p.m.

Home at last.

I’ve been up more than 16 hours, making the most of my adrenaline-filled weekend hobby.

As I cool off from a long day of racing, I look back at all I’ve accomplished over the last 10 PACS rounds, with the unfaltering support of my family, friends, teammates, and race partners.

I’m not yet entirely sure what to compete in next season. But some interesting offers and ideas have come my way, along with coaching opportunities for new drivers.

Let’s just say I won’t have boring weekends anytime soon. And if you take the plunge with joining events like PACS, neither will you.

Source: A day in the life of a Philippine autocross racer

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