Saturday, January 28, 2012

Racing on the well-beaten path: An interview with an off-roader

Clark Speedway - Jojo Javier's 4x4 Dirty Details
Getting down and dirty on the Clark Speedway dirt tracks
 "Whatever the road smells of, that's how you'll smell.  If a carabao used that mudhole you crossed to bathe himself, you'll smell exactly like that carabao." 

Off-roader Jojo Javier offers this pragmatic advice to wannabe off-road racers who think the sport is all about fun and glam. Wearing my writer's hat for InFlight Magazine, part of my assignment was interviewing a curious mix of people from Clark, Pampanga who have adventure as their calling card. From drifting with lateral driving champion, Audel Sison, I met up with Jojo Javier on the tracks of Clark Speedway, deemed among the toughest in the country. 

Curiously, Jojo's background isn't in motorsports but scuba diving, skydiving and practical shooting. He wanted a diversion that would take him outdoors so he bought his first 4x4 many years ago. But it would take a couple of years before the competitive bug bit. He recalls his first race, "muntik na akong umurong nang nakita ko yung race track kasi yung table top is around 15 feet" (I almost pulled out of the race when I saw the race track because the table top obstacle is 15 feet high). In a sport where guts seem to be the high-octane fuel that propel drivers to brave the races, does anything ever faze him? "Recently dun sa national dumptruck challenge, meron talagang tumataob nang paharap" (In the recent national dumptruck challenge, there were vehicles that overturn on their front end which is scary). 

Clark Speedway - Jojo Javier on his Samurai 4x4 Off Roader
Jojo on top of his Suzuki Samurai
So what would any off-roader pray for before any race? He says "I was hoping na mabunot ko yung bandang una pero nung mag-i-istart pa lang kami, walang gustong mauna" (I was hoping to get drawn among the first racers but when the race was about to start, nobody wanted to be first). The apprehension is understandable since the track is freshly backhoe'd, the obstacles angled sharply like walls. The common cause of grief is what they term as the "wall of death" where going down almost 90 degrees is more treacherous than climbing up. Racing towards the end of the pack is no less hazardous. "Nung championship, second to the last ako, 19th runner, 7 o'clock in the evening. Umuulan, wala halos ilaw apart dun sa headlamps ko and a few flood lights. Hindi ko masiyado nakikita ang race track tapos madulas... dahil lamog na yung track." (During the championships, I was second to the last, the 19th runner, at 7 in the evening. I can hardly see the race track which is slippery... since it is already well-beaten).   Jojo finished 5th in a field of 20.

While off-road racing is timed, it is also a race where experience, technical knowledge, familiarity with one's vehicle and cool-headedness come into play.   "Kung alam mo na tama ang takbo and wala kang error, definitely mabilis ang time mo."  (If you know your run is okay and you're not committing errors, your time will definitely be faster).  He's not above being prudent and keeping his vehicle intact either, "I-pre-preserve ko yung sasakyan ko dahil maraming series of races yan" (I will preserve my vehicle because it's a long series of races, not just one).

Clark Speedway - Jojo Javier's 4x4 Up the Wall
Winching it above a well-beaten wall
Now a veteran of numerous off-road races, what goes in his head while behind the wheel? "When you're racing, wala kang ibang naririnig. Parang kabayo na may blinders. Nakikita mo lang yung dalawa mong crew, wala ka nang ibang focus, race na lang." (When you're racing, you can't hear anything much. You're like a horse with blinders. All you can see is your two crewmembers. All you can focus on is the race.)  Spoken like a true off-road warrior.

Attributions:  This post is derived from an interview conducted for a writing assignment for InFlight Magazine.  All photos are my own.   A separate article I authored entitled "Clark for Thrill-seekers" appeared in InFlight Magazine's January 2012 issue.  Many thanks to InFlight Magazine and Audel Sison for making this interview and post possible. InFlight Magazine is available onboard Seair flights and at selected retail outlets. •   Jojo Javier is a past president of the Pampanga Off-Roaders.  You can reach him via mobile number 0917.8877713 or email jojojvr@yahoo.com.

To read the article in InFlight Magazine, please click this link.

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