How The Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival Brought Back Fun In Motoring
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How The Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival Brought Back Fun In Motoring

The Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival is probably the country's premiere motoring event of 2023, and for a very good reason.

Let’s be honest, driving in the Philippines can be horrendous. However, I’d argue that it’s not the case for everyone and everywhere. Most of the headlines are focused on Metro Manila’s gridlock traffic and how the city’s poor urban planning and a low priority on improving public transportation have led us to this point. Going to the Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival isn’t that easy, either. Situated at the Quirino Grandstand from August 23 to 24, it was right smack where gridlock traffic would be and in the heat of an ongoing El NiƱo. But you know what, it was all worth it, and the culminating event for Toyota Motor Philippines’s (TMP) 35th-anniversary celebration reminds us that there’s more to than just driving from point A to point B.

For most people, driving is seen as a chore and a necessity. Once again, Metro Manila’s lack of public transportation options and areas served by these transportation methods have led to this. But from where I live, I’m thankful that this is not a situation I experience on a daily basis. Still, whenever there’s a need to enter Metro Manila, that fun factor behind the wheel disappears the more I drive through congested roads.

How The Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival Brought Back Fun In Motoring

But as I reached the venue, the celebrations at the Quirino Grandstand were way more energetic than the 35th-anniversary celebration that TMP held the night before. Mind you, that night at Grand Hyatt in Bonifacio Global City was also energetic, but in a formal manner that was more of a show of sheer strength and served as a preview of the next-generation Toyota Tamaraw. After all, the Philippines is now Toyota’s 10th biggest market in the world, and with a nearly 50 percent market share, it means one in every two new cars sold in the country is a Toyota.

How The Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival Brought Back Fun In Motoring

Akio Toyoda, current Chairman and former President and CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation was indeed the star of the festival. Where in the world have you seen a top-ranking executive sit behind the wheel of the Toyota Yaris WRC? Yes, the actual rally car that is used in the World Rally Championship and flown in straight from Japan. Akio Toyoda, who has the pseudonym “Morizo”, becomes an actual racecar driver behind the wheel of a WRC car as opposed to simply a businessman whose job is to run a company. When he was the company’s Vice President, Akio Toyoda was heavily involved in the development of the Toyota Gazoo Racing project, which before being called as such, was simply known as Team Gazoo.

But then that’s a story for another day. The main point is that, under Toyoda-san’s leadership, he made a promise to make Toyota’s vehicles fun to drive. Prior to his time, Toyotas were known for reliability and durability, but the cars didn’t emotionally connect to the driver. It was during Akio Toyoda’s time when cars like the GR Yaris hot hatch we know and love today were born, and more fun sportscars like the GR Supra and new GR 86 were born as well.

All of these cars were exhibited by Japan’s top-performing drivers and drifters, such as Norihiko Katsuta and Masahiro Sasaki–the latter even performed a tandem drift using the GR 86 with six-time Lateral Drift champion Alex Perez. Top local drivers such as Marlon Stockinger, Luis Gono, and Ryan Agoncillo also performed their precision driving skills using the GR Supra and GR 86, and for every session that these sports cars and hot hatches started emitting tire smoke, the crowd went wild and nuts. The Quirino Grandstand was filled with energy and passion for the love of cars.

Visitors and customers also showcased their love for cars through the Toyota Gazoo Racing merchandise on-site, as well as the vehicles on display–the main highlight being the Toyota Tamaraw Concept dressed in a racing setup. Capping off each day are performances from Ben&Ben, BGYO, Ely Buendia, Parokya ni Edgar, and Kamikazee.

How The Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival Brought Back Fun In Motoring

Which then brings me back to my original point. The Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival has brought the fun back in driving. Amidst the gridlock traffic of Metro Manila, there are moments and even places in the country where driving can be fun. Thankfully, from where I live, there’s plenty of it, but in Metro Manila, just for once in a while, it became an avenue where cars are more than just a tool that brings us from A to B. The Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival tells us that if given the right opportunity and the right moment, there’s fun to be experienced behind the wheel of the cars we drive–whether that’d be a sports car or a humble family SUV. Of course, drive your cars within the limits of your skill, capability, venue, and local laws.

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