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Just happy to suit up… again

Amid this hell we call ‘pandemic’, nothing can compare the feeling of being able to have that very capacity to again suit up for a race and drive out there like hell.

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Many things have happened during this period of the pandemic. Only heaven knows how deep mankind has stumbled during these challenging times. Even I have my own list of sorrows and struggles that I need not to mention if you don’t want me to turn this piece into a novel.

Good thing — however — with the recent vaccination programs slowly being carried out, somehow alleviating all the brunt, not to mention the rest of the world easing up quarantine restrictions — with some already totally opening up, the once bleak picture back here is now perhaps getting better, if not brighter. And for motorsport enthusiasts like me, the good news is that our beloved “weekend getaway” is finally back on the track.

CIRCUIT races kick off at Clark International Speedway in Pampanga. / PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF THE AUTHOR AND JP TUASON

Personally, I was one of the few who have been given the chance to — again — finally suit up for a race after almost a two-year hiatus. Just last week, Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) called me up to ask if I could join the race this weekend. I had my reservations — at first — given the situation we were currently enduring that time with a few of my family members recently testing positive of the virus, particularly my own seven-year old daughter. Just imagine the stress we were in. Even thoughts on my mind were racing back and forth — tooth and nail — like those canon-like speeding cars in Clark International Speedway on whether I would be joining or not. But eventually, with the situation easing up since they were only showing mild to nil symptoms in the days that followed, I finally said “yes” to the invitation.

AUTHOR happy to see friends and fellow military reservists, Enzo Pineda, WynWyn Marquez and Jennifer Padallan on the race track.

Once I was cleared after getting my results from a swab test, I immediately headed to Pampanga the following day. Again, thoughts on my head were racing back and forth not just because of our situation back at home but because I have not been racing for quite some time now. You know, aside from car racing, I have been a fan of karts since I officially began my journey as a motoring journalist eons ago, even garnering quite a number of trophies under my belt — modesty aside. Somehow, I have developed a habit like clockwork to do several laps around the track at least once a month pre-pandemic. For me, it was a stress-reliever. The adrenaline and speed were like my drug. But when the pandemic struck, it was like cold turkey. With everything that was happening all around us, never did I imagine myself getting back on the track (ever). So, just imagine the stress I was going through while I was driving toward Clark that day. Anxiety levels were at an all-time high.

Finally, when I arrived at the race track, friends from TMP whom I felt I have not seen for ages in-person warmly welcomed us. From then on, I started to relax. I did a few above average times during practice and qualifying, even reaching the final round of the races and just missing the podium by just a hairline.

For me, during my first foray in the track during this pandemic, winning — this time around — did not matter that much unlike in the previous years. People know me. They could instantly tell the difference. Yes, I’m quite a competitive chap.

However, nowadays, it seemed like I had a different set of priorities. For me, just seeing friends in the industry and familiar faces safe and healthy — and in person — were more important. In the end, I’m just thankful to be alive and kicking — or rather racing.

Amid this hell we call ‘pandemic’, nothing can compare the feeling of being able to have that very capacity to again suit up for a race and drive out there like hell.

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