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Philippine Autocross Championship Series returns to Metro Manila under the night skies

Shooting in the dark is difficult, but it’s worth the challenge

A legal street race feels almost like a fantasy, but not this night. PHOTO BY JUSTIN YOUNG

The Philippine Autocross Championship Series (PACS) continues to grow in 2023 as the motorsport body returns to Metro Manila after its previous venue in the region, Megatent, shut its doors to the public. Its new home for this year is Parklinks by Ayala Land, along C5 going northbound. And for the first time, the event took place in the evening until late at night.

Before the round came around, I was contacted by one of the officials, Kevin Puatu, who asked if I could be part of their media team. Naturally, being the guy that would take any opportunity to cover motorsport activities, I accepted the offer and took on the photographer role. The call time for us was 4pm to prepare for the start at 6pm.

Two drivers would simultaneously set their times and away from each other. ILLUSTRATION FROM PACS

The autocross format has two participants enter the track in a predetermined layout that could be mirrored or be different from each other, and run both courses in one session. Whoever sets the faster total time wins in the respective classes. For penalties, knocking over a cone or obstacle incurs a two-second time penalty, while deviating from the course or getting lost results in a DNF (did-not-finish).

Civic vs. Corolla, old vs. new. PACS is open to everyone. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

As the sun slowly set, entrants were gathered to be briefed on the two-course layouts that included complex slaloms and a roundabout for each section. Due to time constraints, the practice session was eradicated in favor of track walks instead, so everyone was sent racing into the night practically blind.

Some of the officials behind PACS: Ryan Ablang, Ada Victor and Sam Santiago Escalante. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

Round 4 was also the first PACS event under the helm of Sam Santiago Escalante, daughter of its late founder Danny Santiago who passed away in February. Her role as race director is to ensure the smoothness of the program, especially in a first-time venue like Parklinks and a return to the capital.

A big challenge for Sam and the rest of the officials was accommodating more entrants residing in Metro Manila for veterans and newbies alike, and an influx of spectators watching the action or coming to chill on the sidelines with a car meet by East Side Collective.

The atmosphere felt like the author had been transported into ‘The Fast and The Furious.’ PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

Stepping back from my role, I couldn’t help but think how both of my worlds collided in one place. As a motorsport enthusiast, witnessing a sanctioned racing event without stepping out of the city was a big plus in convenience and accessibility. On the other hand, the 2000s kid inside me couldn’t help but feel like living in the universe of The Fast and The Furious—except in a safe and monitored environment.

You don't have to run the locally reputable-in-racing brands. A Jetta TDI could also be as competitive with a good setup. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

PACS is planning to hold more rounds in Metro Manila, with the fifth round returning to Parklinks on May 20 under the darkness once more, and the sixth one that has yet to be announced. Motorsport enthusiasts living in the city like myself cannot wait to experience such events again, whether on the viewing grounds or behind the wheel.

As Dominic Toretto says, racing is nothing without family. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

Congratulations to the Philippine Autocross Championship Series team and drivers for a successful comeback to the capital, and a massive thanks for the opportunity to officially shoot for the round.

Justin Young

Justin loves cars of all forms. Molded by motoring TV shows and Internet car culture, he sees the world from a different perspective that not many get to see every day.