When the Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival (TGR Festival) was announced and, being a member of the media beat, we received first dibs on the event details, I heard the words, “Quirino Grandstand” and I balked. Let’s be honest. As much as many of us are motorsport enthusiasts, the thought of traversing rush hour traffic into the heart of Manila on a weekday made us think twice.
Truth be told, I almost decided not to attend.
But looking back, why didn‘t any of us just say no? The traffic was horrendous and the parking situation even more dire.
Here’s why. Because the TGR Festival put the Filipino motorsport community on centerstage and showcased the greatness of our very own local racers. The event made space for champions and amateurs alike. By opening it up to the public, it allowed Filipino fans to take part in celebrating the talents and skills of legends and aspiring competitive drivers.
All things considered, we were privileged to witness such a spectacular milestone, front and center.
TGR Fest 2023 happened simultaneously as the 35th Anniversary of Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) as part of the company’s celebration. In fact, an exclusive gala was held the night before, as a tribute to TMP’s success, having risen to 10th place in Toyota Motor Corporation’s global ranking. I thought that nothing could outdo that evening’s massive display of strength and dominance.
I arrived at Quirino Grandstand the following morning to an incredible show of pride. The music and the fanfare could be heard from blocks away and gaily invited people from every walk of life to take part in the occasion. Car club displays lined the street leading up to the venue, where there were public highlights, like the Toyota Tamaraw Concept car that was unveiled the previous evening, games for families, and a booth where fans can avail of official and exclusive Toyota Gazoo Racing merchandise.
The highlight, of course, was when I entered the main arena of Quirino Grandstand, just a few minutes shy of the opening highlight — Akio Toyoda in the Toyota WRC Yaris, one of the legendary GR race cars that was flown in exclusively for the event. The crowd went wild as Morizo-san sped into the arena in a flurry of brake dust, road dirt, and burning rubber. The energy that ran across the stands was electrifying and set the stage for the rest of the program.
That same adrenaline and thrill carried on and heightened further, especially when our very own 6-time lateral drift champion (and a personal friend), Alex Perez entered the stage for a Toyota GR 86 tandem drift exhibition with Masahiro Sasaki, one of Gazoo Racing’s champion racers.
While I am motorsport fan, I am no hardcore geek. But being an enthusiast, I watched with bated breath and tried not to blink throughout the entire exhibition, despite the dust blowing in my face. The raw skill that each of the racers showed was nothing short of amazing — incredible handling, silky-smooth turning executions, heart-stopping cornering, and confidently controlled maneuvering.
The memories created, however, were made behind the railings. While the show was the highlight, what was ingrained in me was witnessing the heart of a community that came together for a well-loved sport. The cheers, the thrill, and the excitement were all infectious.
Toyota did right by the local motorsport industry by making the TGR Festival inclusive to our very own racers, such as Luis Gono, Ryan Agoncillo, and Marlon Stockinger. What it made it more special was having drivers that represented special car communities be a part of the track during the Gymkhana and Drift exhibition — people like Bryan Revilla of Manila Street Chronicles, Aurick Go, Paolo Agregado, and Hans Jimenez, who won first place in the Drift Competition, to name a few.
The public turnout and show of support for TGR Fest was well-deserved. While it can be seen as a display of power for Toyota Motor Philippines, and rightly so, I came away from the experience with another perspective.
TGR Fest created an avenue for motorsport in the Philippines to have its own place on the world stage, showcasing the talents of Filipino racers alongside global champions, and encouraging aspiring drivers to blaze their own trails on the track.
I write this more than a week later and as I look back on that day and through the photos taken on my phone, I feel a sense of pride to have been part of such an event that would pave the way for the industry for generations to come.
Did I mention that it was the first Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival in the country? What an honor it was to watch friends, colleagues, and the community in one space, rallying behind one passion — the love of cars and how far it can take us.