Aira Medrano: Girl power in Vios Cup

Written by: Ramon D. Boado, The Standard
Photos by: Ramon D. Boado
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ONCE in a while, a female driving champ captures the imagination of the racing scene.

Alexandra Romaine C. Medrano is that lady champ.

In the tradition of female speedsters such as Michele Bumgarner and Gaby dela Merced, Medrano burst into big-time racing with a virtuoso performance during the final race of the Promotional Class of the 2016 Vios Cup 3’s Round 2.

“Winning in a race is surreal,” said 19-year-old Medrano, who goes by the nickname Aira. “In motorsports racing, the level of nervousness and excitement at the same time is so intense that sometimes, I just hear my own heartbeat. Even though motorsports is a dangerous sport, I still like to take the risk and be part of the action. Whenever I put on my helmet and get inside the car, the feeling is always sublime. My favorite part in racing is winning and finishing the race in one piece.”

Sports is an integral part of the life of this architecture student from the College of St. Benilde.

She used to be a varsity swimmer and a karter, a 2009 champion at that in the Cadet Babyrok Class and a 2010 1st runner-up in the Mini Rok Class. She then tried to remove the sporting lifestyle she was accustomed to when she entered college, but to no avail.

“When I got into college I stopped doing both sports and tried to focus on studying. I realized if I will get back to swimming, it will be hard for me because of the early morning trainings and sleepless nights because of my course. Then Vios Cup happened,” Medrano said. “My father influenced me to join motorsports ever since my karting days. Then, I told my parents that I want to join the Vios Cup because I miss racing.”

So far, it was the right decision.

During the final heat of the Vios Cup’s Round 2 in Filinvest recently, Medrado, carrying the banner of Toyota Alabang Racing Team, stunned Round 1 champ Mark Martinez, who was also the overall points’ leader in the Promotional Class. At the same time, she also beat Cebu Racing Team’s Bobby Pangilinan.

During the race, Medrano simply stuck behind Martinez for majority of the race. When she saw an opening in the last four laps, Medrano deftly steered her racing machine to the lead and kept it all the way to the finish, winning impressively by a margin of four cars.

“Racing really improves and builds up my character as a person. Through racing, I taught myself to fight and be stronger and to conquer my fears, because in racing. it’s a matter of life and death. Racing boosts up my confidence and self-esteem that even though I’m a girl, I still have to believe in myself that I can do anything. Discipline and focus in racing is very important because you have to communicate with your car not just to yourself. Sportsmanship, because win or lose you have to accept it. I learn from my mistakes and move on, I take it as a lesson. Errors and mistakes are all right even in life,” said Medrano, who incidentally, idolizes both Bumgarner and Dela Merced.

“There are two women that I idolize in motorsports racing. Ever since I started karting, Michelle Bumgarner became my inspiration. It is because when I was still in fun karts and not yet competing, my father introduced to me that there is a lady driver in the Philippines. Then, I heard of Gaby Dela Merced and she really rocks because of the way she slays her other male competitors and from that moment I told myself that I want to be like her in the future.”

Medrano may be an intense competitor at the racecourse, but off it, she is still the typical teenager, the girl next door who is the crush of young neighborhood boys. 

“I’m optimistic and a happy go lucky person,” said Medrano, who loves reading books, watching movies and TV series, swimming, synchronized swimming, collecting and solving Rubik’s Cube.

With her recent Vios Cup conquest, Medrano said she has to learn to manage her time.

“Balancing school and racing is quite hard especially that I’m in college now and the course that I’m currently taking. Sometimes, I have to be absent in my classes just for our training, but I make sure that I do my homework or plates before I go out at the race track. I even think it’s an advantage for me because I get to finish my schoolworks earlier and it lets me push myself to study more, so for my reward I get to practice. One month at least is our preparation for our races.”

Like many speedsters and champs before her, Medrano’s dream is to become a Formula 1 driver someday. 

“In formula racing, you’re much more direct or connected with the car and it has more thrill. But one step at a time because I’m already living my dream. I’m not really sure what will happen to me in the future as a motorsports athlete,” she said.

For now, she wants “to train more with my team because I still have a lot to learn from them and have a connection with my car. I want to stop the gender discrimination and to prove that women can drive and also race. I also want to influence and be an inspiration to others. Dedication in this sport is important because you have to do what you love and love what you do, and that also applies in my studies. I learned that one mistake can make a huge difference.”