Kenneth Cobonpue, Michael Lhuillier and Tour de Cebu: The real adrenaline rush
Driving old cars in bad weather is a real adrenaline rush. The tires are skinny, brakes are not that good, ventilation systems are crude, wipers are slow, lighting is dim, and weather-proofing is lacking. All of these factors, combined with 1,000 kilometers of driving in October, which is typically typhoon season, are what makes this experience so exciting.”
That’s how Michael Lhuillier of Tour de Cebu explains why he and his buddies in the Performance and Classics Enthusiasts (PACE) do it, and why the rest of us can’t fathom why they’d be crazy enough to.
Tour de Cebu is the country’s only 1,000-km historic sports car rally across the Visayas, inspired by the Mille Miglia, the 1,000-mile open-road endurance race in Italy.
Organized by PACE of Cebu with the Manila Sports Car Club, Tour de Cebu had its fourth consecutive run in October 2017.
Aiming to promote the preservation of historic sports cars, the event has consistently produced a grid of restored vintage and classic cars that have been carefully chosen, restored, and rally-prepared several months ahead to ensure that they survive the endurance run.
It’s easy to see why it has caught the attention of motoring enthusiasts worldwide.
PACE and Tour de Cebu founder Jay Aldeguer, who finished second this year in his 1964 Porsche 356C behind last year’s defending champion, Marty Aguilar, said: “The earlier years were the most challenging as they were laden with several breakdowns. This year, however, outdid all the past tours. We had better cars, the rally was more organized, and we had international participation from Singapore, the US and Spain.
“We were also able to sign up high-profile international motoring sponsors in Pirelli and Chopard. Chopard, which is known for supporting the iconic Mille Miglia race in Italy, made 25 limited-edition Tour de Cebu watches. All these contributed to an overall better event this year.”
Past years saw participants explore not only the roads of Cebu but also those of Dumaguete and Negros. This most recent tour, as well as the previous one, took them to Bohol.
Aldeguer laughingly says, “Well, the first thing we immediately discovered was that it was impossible to hold it entirely in Cebu. The traffic in recent years just makes it hopeless to plot 1,000 km of uninterrupted driving!”
Architect Alex Medalla, who joined the tour for the first time this year in an Alfa Romeo Veloce Spider 1972-73, found the drive in Bohol quite memorable.
“It made me wish Cebu had the same roads and infrastructure,” he says.
PACE chair Michael Lhuillier who took his 1960s Jaguar XKE, adds: “The Philippines has many beautiful sights and an ever-improving road network. The island of Bohol is a great example. The warmth and hospitality of the locals were the icing on the larger experience.”
Grand Benedicto, owner of Tour de Cebu co-presentor and official Bohol residence BE Grand Resort Bohol, agrees: “I particularly loved coming back to BE Bohol after the long drive!”
Beyond the adrenaline rush and the beautiful scenery, what made this year’s Tour de Cebu special for many participants was that it was a family affair. Benedicto took his father’s ’67 Mustang Fastback, which his son, Giles, drove.
“When he told me he wanted to drive in Tour de Cebu, I thought he only wanted an excuse to skip school. I didn’t realize that he liked driving so much,” Benedicto says.
Alex Medalla’s son, Jovi, served as his navigator. “Patience, calmness and wit made him the perfect company,” the father says.
Lhuillier also did the drive with his son: “My 17-year old, Myles, was my co-pilot, and we had a blast.”
Industrial designer Kenneth Cobonpue, who drove the oldest car in the tour, a 1955 Austin Healey 100M Roadster, did the same: “My son Andre was with me. It wasn’t his first time to help me navigate through the route, so his experience made him a good copilot.”
Champion of the first Tour de Cebu in 2014, Chris Aldeguer, whose kids were too young to get behind the wheel of the Lotus Michel Eleven he drove, took his wife, Nia, instead. “Since she is very good with directions, she was really an asset as my navigator,” he says.
The guys of PACE are already planning the 2018 rally. “I plan on being more prepared mentally!” Medalla says half-jokingly.
Aldeguer adds, “I just might take a convertible or a Targa. I think the guys who drive with an open top have the most fun!”–CONTRIBUTED
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