Vios Cup returns to zooming sweet success

Written by:  Al S. Mendoza
Photos by: Business Mirror
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WITH Round 1 of the fourth Vios Cup zooming to sweet success once more, a record crowd of nearly 10,000 went home happy as ever, including kids in droves brought along by their parents equally thrilled at watching the country’s only certified world-class car race.

Flagged off in 2014, the Vios Cup now going global was visibly evident last weekend, making it Toyota’s front-runner in the industry anew in terms of establishing a firm foothold on brand awareness not only locally, but worldwide, as well.

Easily eclipsed, attendance-wise, was the crowd turnout of 7,120 last year, as the Vios Cup launch last Saturday was greeted with thunderous cheers at the Clark International Speedway in Angeles, Pampanga.

They were treated to an unexpected show of raw, but definitely passable, racing techniques by a slew of silver screen idols, to include newcomers Aubrey Miles, Ella Cruz, Dominic Roque, Gretchen Ho and Jake Cuenca. They were pitted against returning celebrity racers Jasmine Curtis-Smith, Fabio Ide and Jericho Rosales (See results).

Bunched in one of four division races, they held their own against the established veterans—dishing off racing skills that they learned from JP’s meticulously laid-out courses of the fabled Tuason Racing School.

This year’s edition also broke the roster of starters from 60 racers in 2016 to 72 this year, easily making the Vios Cup as the race to beat hands down. Cosco Oben, whose family owns Toyota dealerships in Otis, North Balintawak and Bulacan, has fielded seven drivers, including returning Mark Soong of Ferrari fame.

Rene So’s Gerard Loy and Bryan Co (super sporting class) and Gel Napai (promotional) are again representing Team Biskeg (Power) from Rene’s Toyota dealerships in the cities of Dagupan, Baguio and San Fernando (La Union). Rene’s fourth in San Nicolas-Laoag is opening soon.

Arias as JA

“IF there should be another race to rival the Vios Cup, we will gladly welcome its arrival,” said Jose Ariel T. Arias, Toyota Motor Philippines’s (TMP) senior vice president (marketing division) who practically fathered the Vios Cup with former TMP President Michonobu Sugata. “It will only spur us to make the Vios Cup better.”

The Vios Cup, as profoundly pointed out by Arias, has made Vios a runaway best seller in its class in phenomenal fashion.

Before the Vios Cup’s launch in 2014, Vios sold 20,493 units in 2013. By the end of 2014, Vios sales jacked up to a staggering 25,837—or an increase of 5,344 units. Further in 2015, sales rose to 33,173—a whopping increase of 7,336. It slowed down a bit in 2016, Vios sales registering 36,256—but still a not-to-be-sneezed at increase of 3,083.

“We are doing good again as we approach the year’s halfway mark, despite the threat of an increase in excise tax,” said Arias, monikered Ariel but I would most prefer to call him JA for his “Jolly Always” demeanor. “Excise tax and all, the industry is optimistic overall.”

Suzuki push for TGR

In his opening remarks at Clark, Satoru Suzuki made emphatic the Vios Cup’s now-indelible impact on the motorsports scene, saying, “The Vios Cup is not only now just a local racing activity, but it is now recognized as part of Toyota Gazoo Racing [TGR] in Asia’s events.”

Added Suzuki, the president of TMP, “Gazoo is our special motorsports division aiming to develop better technologies and solution for our global motorsports activities. It is now clear that the Vios Cup has become on a par with other international racing programs.”

Suzuki echoed what was envisioned by Akio Toyoda, Japan’s Toyota chieftain, about TGR’s three main aspects: Developing human resources, making “ever better” cars and expanding the motorsports fan base. TGR’s chief reference races are the iconic FIA World Rally Championship, 24-hour Le Mans and killer Dakar Rally.

To be fair, I make mention of Suzuki’s other equally distinguished Vios Cup team members this year aside from JA, which include Kei Mizuguchi (EVP, marketing); Jing Atienza (SVP for maketing division); Sherwin Chualim (VP for sales & marketing-VSO), Carlo Ablaza (AVP for marketing services-VSO); Jade B. Sison (PR & media management); Raymond Ramos (PR & media management); and Jeane Sangalang (PR & media management). Of course, not to be overlooked is lawyer Rommel Gutierrez as FVP for corporate affairs, whose being a family man through and through he proved once more by arriving with his wife and three kids.