The Tenth Golden Wheel Awards: a decade of honoring the Philippine motorsports heroes

The 10th Golden Wheel Awards went down at CCP (Photo: Golden Wheel Awards Foundation, Inc.)

What started as a sidetrack to an Asian Formula 3 (AF3) organizers’ meeting in late 2003 has transformed into the “Oscars” of Philippine motorsports and now, a decade after the idea was hatched, the Golden Wheel Awards has been the crowning glory to those who excelled in the field and the list of its honorees continues to reach heroic proportions. Last Saturday (March 16th) the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) once again served as the backdrop for recognizing the elite in an industry that has grown tremendously over the years and it is all thanks to the continuing support of the people who believe that the Filipino can make an imprint in the world of motorsports.

The concept was brought about by the Batangas Racing Circuit’s head honcho Mr. Johnny Tan when he was inspired by the presence of the best and brightest minds in Philippine motorsports right before him during that initial meeting to usher in the AF3 to the country. Since the thought was akin to the Oscars, the original name of the rites were the “Motorsports Academy Awards”; an endeavour that aimed to recognize the best of the year among the drivers and riders through their race organizers, media, race officials and from corporate sponsors with the highest accolade being Driver of the Year. Eventually, crediting a stroke of genius by race television director Ike Gangoso—who eventually led the production of the first sortie—the title “The Golden Wheel Awards” became accepted to all those in the industry and the trophies that also emerged from the name were exactly that: a golden wheel surrounded by laurels on a sturdy granite rock.

BRC's Johnny Tan hatched the idea of the "Oscars" for Philippine motorsports in 2003 (Photo: Golden Wheel Foundation, …

Many wondered why it took a while, but in February 3, 2004, in a quaint gathering of the veritable icons of the industry at the Carlos P. Romulo auditorium in Makati, the first awards were handed out to the deserving members of the auto-racing society. The late Senator Robert Z. Barbers was the Guest of Honor with the Automotive Association of the Philippines’ Jose Armando “Mandy” Eduque delivering the congratulatory remarks. The awards were in ten categories.

Today, fourteen total trophies are handed out to the most deserving members of the racing community with two new awards for Classic Cars and Media/Journalism making its debut in the 2013 edition of the rites. There are also awards in the various club categories.

Since then, the Golden Wheel Awards has become an institution in the motoring industry and something all involved in motorsports strived for.

Over the years, one of the most anticipated honor (besides Driver of the Year) is the accolade for the Hall of Fame. The first recipient of this prestigious tribute was Pocholo Ramirez, who was unanimously elected by his peers. Ramirez’s life was devoted to racing and the uplifting of the industry. On June 7, 1987, he and his good friend Butch Gamboa began the weekly TV show “Motoring Today”. It quickly became a sensational hit, not only in the automotive industry, but it also introduced motoring to the mainstream public as well. Ramirez also starred in Petron’s advertising campaign in 2005 where he successfully traversed 1,114 kilometers on a single full tank of the said petroleum company’s fuel. His tag line, “Traffic? Bring it on!” became a household phrase and was indirectly responsible for Petron’s spike in sales. A little over five years after being the first Hall of Fame inductee of the Golden Wheel Awards, Ramirez succumbed to cancer in 2009, ending an era.

Pocholo Ramirez was the first to be inducted in the Golden Wheel Hall of Fame (Photo: Golden Wheel Foundation, …

It would take half a decade before the Golden Wheel Awards would honor another Hall of Famer and in 2009 the second inductee was acclaimed basketball coach Dante Silverio, who before his days of bringing championships to the Toyota franchise in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) was known as one of the most daring race car drivers in the country. Silverio is still the only racer to top both circuit racing and rally events in the same year when he won the Royal Rally of Champions. 2010 saw the induction of Robert Aventajado, who before his stint in politics under the administration of President Joseph Estrada was busy negotiating not on behalf of the government against terrorists, but chicanes and straightaways as one of the hotshots in the local rally scene in the 1980s. Yu Beng Tek, a Chinese street racer who gave Ramirez and Silverio fits—in his Mini Cooper—during the heyday of the Ortigas Racing Circuit became the first foreign-born recipient of the recognition in 2011 while for his efforts to bring the Filipino to the international racing arena in the 1960’s, Francisco “Paquito” Ventura—one of the original members and founders of the Car Wreckers’ Club—was inducted in 2012.

But more than acknowledging the achievements of the movers and shakers of the racing and automotive industries over the past decade is what the Golden Wheel Awards has evolved to become: a foundation. Quite recently, the Golden Wheel Foundation, Inc. gave back to the community by instigating a tree-planting campaign in Pampanga as well as helping the needy in Barangay Lara in the outskirts of Bacolor. After that undertaking, the Foundation intends to create more opportunities to give back to nature and the socially-challenged and its presence has now come full circle.

Outreach galore: members of the Golden Wheel Foundation in a recent tree-planting endeavor (Photo: Golden Wheel …

Among the elite in the racing community who have garnered the distinction of Driver of the Year were Michelle Bumgarner; the first back-to-back recipient of the award in 2004 and 2005—while she was still a teenager—along with Pepon Marave (2004), motorcyclist Jolet Jao (2006) along with Glenn Aguilar—who was the first recipient of the International version of the award. 2007 saw the recognition going to Jody Coseteng (National) and Tyson Sy (International) while in 2008, it was another teenager in Stefano Marcelo (International) with Maico Buncio, a four-time national superbike champion who died tragically during a race at the Clark International Speedway Racing Circuit in 2011. He was only 22.

In 2009, Juha Turalba (International) and Jonathan Tiu (National) were the top of their class while Tiu repeated again in 2010, but this time was the lone winner as no one made the grade for the International category. Buncio won the award solo in 2011; less than three months before his untimely demise. In 2012, Vincent Floirendo beat out Coseteng for the plum in one of the most tightly contested voting ever.

Maico Buncio with his last Driver of the Year trophy. He died two months later. (Photo: …

This year the following pillars of the industry took home the Golden Wheel Awards:

Scooter: Miko Erich P. Montano

Underbone: Anthony J. Roman

Superbike: Raniel A. Resuello

Motocross: Glenn Aguilar (8th victory in 10 years)

Glenn Aguilar took home his 8th title in 10 years for Motocross (Photo: Golden Wheel Foundation, Inc.)

Karting: Vencer John M. Suba

Drifting: Alex N. Perez

Slalom: Peewee R. Mendiola, M.D.

4x4 Off-Road: Red G. Diwa

Classic Cars (Inaugural Award): Rodney I. Caballero

Grand Touring: Vincent R. Florendo

Drag Racing: Jonathan C. Tiu

Asian Karting (Junior): Darma Mangkuluhur

Asian Karting (Senior): Sena Sulaiman Noor

Media/Journalism (Inaugural Awards)

Print Media: Christopher “Bong” Castro

Broadcast Media (Radio): Edwin Go/”Motorsiklo Xklusibo” (DZME)

Broadcast Media (Television): Isabel Oli/”Sports Pilipinas” (GMA News TV)

Posthumous Award: Anthony Go, champion drag racer (1974-2012)

Hall Of Fame: Bien Manalo, 1964 Champion, Shell Car Rally

The iconic pose of 1964 Shell Car Rally king Bien Manalo (Photo: Golden Wheel Foundation, Inc.)

Driver of the Year: VENCER JOHN SUBA*

*Also the 2013 Karter of the Year, Suba is the son of an underprivileged auto mechanic and dedicated his feting to all the hard work his father put in for him over the years; a truly inspiring story of victory in the face of hardships.

Vencer John Suba captured his 1st ever Driver of the Year award (Photo: Golden Wheel Foundation, Inc.)

Yahoo Sports Philippines wishes to congratulate all the winners in the 2013 Golden Wheel Awards and may their achievements inspire a new breed of motorsports aficionados and hopefully the Philippines can come one more step closer to attaining continuous success on the world stage. Yahoo Sports Philippines also salutes the organizers and hard-working men and women of this annual classic led by the invaluable efforts of its chairman Mr. Johnny Tan as well as its nomination and selection committees and its electoral group.

It was no small feat to fete the best in Philippine motorsports but all efforts to crown the achievers in the previous year has been fruitful and the industry is once again on the move to create more triumphs in 2013 and beyond.

Follow Noel Zarate on Twitter: @NoelZarate