Butch Francisco On How The Tour De Cebu Changed His Life

This will be our first time to join the Tour and truly expect to have the “time of our life” between father and son driving and navigating a red retro Porsche 924 across Bohol.

My son, Rafa, and I flew to Cebu City late Monday night of 16 October to prepare for the 4th Tour de Cebu (TdC), a three day regularity rally covering 1,000 kilometres of open road endurance race for classic sports cars.

This will be our first time to join the Tour and truly expect to have the “time of our life” between father and son driving and navigating a red retro Porsche 924 across Bohol.

We were assigned to the Sportsman Class, a limited category for cars made from 1973 to 1978 since Tour de Cebu is only open to sports cars manufactured in 1972 or prior and must be in the list of eligible sports cars by the MSCC – Manila Sports Car Club.

My first choice was to field a Michel Speedster as my car for the tour. But the negotiations bogged down with the car’s owner representative over an issue on getting the car after reserving it and unfortunately, he had to sell the car to someone else. My first vintage sports car ever was a Porsche 912. I gave my 924 a nickname: “Clementina”. Her badge number in the race is 4.

Make Meaning

My wife, Maling, asked me if I was truly up to the task in doing a long-distance driving. Why join a car rally? I guess a good reason to get into motorsports is to make meaning — to do something that makes the world a better place.

The opportunity to bond with son, Rafa, I believe tops them all. World Polio Day is 24 October and the race is from 20 to 22 October. What a good purpose to be in the race by promoting End Polio Now of Rotary International. I registered the event in endpolio.org with my membership in ACHAFR – Antique Classic & Historic Automobile World Fellowship of Rotarians. The action plan is to pledge USD1.00 for every successful kilometre run to PolioPlus of The Rotary Foundation and the amount will be matched 2 times by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to obtain more vaccines and pay for transport and other logistics. This is a triple impact in our fight to end the deadly disease that has affected millions of children worldwide.

So, my first task is how can I make meaning with Tour de Cebu.

Polio or poliomyelitis has plagued humankind as far back before the Common Era.  Children are most often affected by the virus.  We would see kids with leg braces or on crutches in the last century. The disease is passed from one person to the next and symptoms include pain in the limbs. Many of the victims die due to deterioration of breathing muscles.

It was only in 1952 that the first vaccine against polio was developed. By 1988 with the help of Rotary International, polio was wiped out in most countries. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation joined in with more funding and some US$3 billion has been contributed combined to obtain more vaccines and pay for transport to reach countries that continue to report cases. By 2016, the number of cases worldwide had been reduced by over 99% and only a few cases of polio existed in just three countries: Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

I wrote to PACE about my mission. TdC secretariat’s reply: “Wonderful!” I also received a comment from Daemon Ex Machina, a supporter of TdC. “Hey Butch! It’s great to hear that you guys are going to be marrying motoring with charity.”

The 4th Tour De Cebu

Regularly, A rally is a motorsport race conducted on public roads with the object of driving a particular distance at a particular speed in a particular time. Another name to it is Time Speed Distance (TSD) rally. You don’t win the race being the fastest car. TdC offers classic sports cars, enthusiasts and spectators the fun of competitive automotive event with all specified speeds at or below the speed limits while enjoying their cars in scenic backdrops along the route. TdC is one of the most competitive and prestigious motor sporting events in the Philippines today.

The Tour is inspired by the famous 1,000 kilometre Mille Miglia road race in Italy. It is the one and only 1,000 kilometre motorsport for historic sports cars in the country organised by a private car club PACE and supported by another private car club MSCC.

A team involves a vehicle (sports car), a driver and a navigator driving under prescribed speed and through prescribed routes. There are Time Control (TC) points to define the Start and Finish of a Stage. A Stage is defined as a section of the race between 2 TC points. Along the route, there are strategically place Secret Passage Controls (SPC) to ensure that the competing cars are travelling through the prescribed route. Drivers are required to stop at every SPC and Marshals shall put their signature on the driver’s timecard. Use of any form of navigational aid is encouraged. Finally, timings are used to calculate penalties incurred by the competing cars. The car with the lowest penalty wins. This is like what Rafa and I enjoy in golf. The player with lowest score wins.

My 924 arrived Tuesday on a car carrier in Montebello Villa Hotel, the Tour’s official hotel in Cebu City. The car was shipped from Manila via the official logistics partner. Distribution of car numbers, sponsors stickers, IDs, Driver’s Handbook, Road Book, and souvenirs were handed out Wednesday. Forty eight (48) cars pre-registered to join the Tour in four (4) divisions.

Bad weather prevailed spawned by a coming tropical cyclone with code name Paolo. We were in for a rainy treat in the race.

Preparation Is Key

NBA basketball coach Phil Jackson said winning is all about preparedness and a mind-set and less about the opponent. Brushed up on several “How to” videos by The Great Race from Rally School with Rally Master John Classen to Reading Course Instructions for Vintage Rallying. Inspected the 924 for issues. Really, Rafa and I will never be quite prepared for the type of motorsport we were going to have in TdC since this is our first. It is now about courage, understanding and nurturing friendships.

I learned about TdC only in April. I talked to my brother-in-law, Macoy, who is based in Cebu City, on how much does he know about the Tour and this year’s route in Bohol province. He takes the roll-on/roll-off to Bohol for leisure trips to Bohol’s Panglao Island, one of the main tourist destinations for beach hopping, snorkeling, scuba-diving, dolphin watching and fishing.

The first day of the race itself was run really well despite bad weather conditions. A car safety inspection and drivers’ briefing were conducted a day before race day. We drove our 924 to Pier 3 in the Port of Cebu by 6:00 in the morning. We were one of the early bird arrivals for our ro-ro to Tubigon Port in Bohol just behind the 356C of Jay Aldeguer, a co-founder of PACE.

Loading and unloading of competing cars were based on the start order from the Rally Director. Non-competing support crew vehicles had already left earlier on another vessel.

Sequence of competing vehicles at the start line in Tubigon were as follows:

  • Official Lead Car
  • Competing Cars
  • Official Ambulance
  • Support Crew Vehicles
  • Recovery Vehicles
  • Media/ Sponsors Vehicles
  • Official Sweeper

Upon arrival in Tubigon for the flag-off activity. I was warmly received by the Rotarians, Rotaractors and Interactors from the Rotary Club of Tubigon. They even carried an arrival banner with my name on it. Very much appreciated.

We flagged off to our historic run at our target time of 11:31 AM for Stage 1 Tubigon-Danao leg covering 97.15 kilometres with an average prescribed speed of 60 kilometres per hour.

Everything looked fine until Rafa and I realised we were no longer on course. Eventually got time barred in Stage 1. The next stage was from Danao – Dauis with a distance of 194.1 kilometres at an average prescribed speed of 60 kilometres per hour. We were buffeted by rain for several hours. Heard chassis noises when driving through breathtaking sceneries around the hills. We finally passed Borja bridge and was told there was nobody anymore at TC point and all cars must head straight to BE Grand Resort in Panglao Island.

An amazing welcome cocktail reception was underway as soon as we arrived in the official partner hotel. A perfect way to end day 1 of the race.

BE Grand Resort lives true to its facilities as advertised. It even has car wash facilities for our convenience.

Total kilometers driven: 291.50 km 
Total hours driven:  8 hours.

Let’s Face The Music

Had trouble starting the 924 after sitting overnight following the gruelling race in Stage 1 and Stage 2. Missed the drivers’ morning briefing and it looked like “I’ll be sitting and watching the cars roll away and then watch them roll in when the evening come, yeah.”

In the evening, Pirelli hosted dinner with entertainment. Everyone wore their Pirelli tees provided by the host. I received an official notification from Redge Burila that he has retired his lone yellow Saab Sonett from the race.

On the next and final day, I saw more cars retiring from the race. I then remembered watching the movie clip Let’s Face The Music and Dance of 1936 by Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers:

“There may be trouble ahead, 
But while there’s moonlight and music and love and romance, 
Let’s face the music and dance.”

I decided to contact my support crew to arrange and book a towing service for Clementina back to Cebu City via Tubigon Port.

Hosted my team for pizzas at Giuseppe Pizzeria & Sicilian Roast and decided that Rafa and myself go back to Cebu via Ocean Jet Fast Ferries from the nearby Port of Tagbilaran.

“I’ll be sitting and watching the cars roll away and then watch them roll in when the evening come, yeah.”

Viewed the final results of the race in the TdC Participants Group. Thumbs up! To the thirty-seven (37) cars for completing all 6 stages of the race.

Thanked everyone for a fun-filled week.

Written by Rafael Francisco, AB 78.



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