Monday, July 27, 2009

License to Drive

The sounds were deafening and heart-thumping as we rounded the corner towards Enchanted Kingdom’s back entrance last Saturday. “So that’s what karting sounds like!” I thought, suddenly fearful how my kids would fare later when they try driving a kart themselves for the first time.

We came to watch drivers of the Ready2Race (R2R) Team practice. Present were five out of the current 11 members. They all drove impressively fast and executed all turns perfectly. What’s amazing about these drivers is that their ages range from 10 to 16 years old. It is important to note that some of these young drivers have already won various karting titles and that they are all A-students in their individual schools!

I was impressed at their individual karts because not only were there stickers of various sponsors but also each driver’s name. The karts all look well-maintained and, by the sound of them on the track, are in great running condition.

When the young men were taking a break from practice, my companions and I were able to talk to them and some of their parents. Needless to say, the conversations turned out to be very interesting. I wouldn’t be surprised that sooner, rather than later, the Philippines will have its first Filipino Formula One (F1) Racer from this group. The boys were so engaging and full of positive self-assurance.

Jose Antonio “Juha” Turalba (15), who has been racing since he was nine, shared that he now finds video racing games corny. I could very well imagine that as this teen already has a long list of impressive awards in both the local and international championship karting scenes. He won the 2008 Asian Karting Open Championship (AKOC), bagged International Driver of the Year in the Philippines and placed 12th in the world at the Kartodromo de Coloane Circuit in Italy. His karting achievements (including a photo with F1 Racer Michael Schumacher!) and other interests are showcased in his very own website at

Juha’s dad, Toti Turalba, Chairman of R2R, acknowledged that anybody can get good in karting because driving is a skill “but there should be determination to do well. In this sport, you’ll lose more than you win … it builds character.” He also pronounced that Filipino drivers are now feared in Asia because we have the ideal body symmetry built for racing.

Chito Benito, R2R’s President, affirmed that it is worth every penny when he sees his son, Roby, and the other drivers grow and develop remarkably before their parents’ eyes. “What they learn on the tracks, the discipline and training, actually supports them in their growth in life, off the tracks.”

This is evident in Chito’s son Rafael “Roby” Benito (14), because this young man is a consistent A-student of De La Salle Zobel and is also a serious piano player. Roby’s karting achievements include being the champion of the KF3 class of the 2009 PAGCOR KF2-KF3 Series; the 1st Runner-up in the ROK Jr. Class 2007 and 2008 Shell Karting Series; 2nd Runner-up in the ROK Jr. Class 2008 AKOC; and back-to-back Champion in the Expert Class of the 2006 and 2007 Arthur Tuason Memorial Cup.

Another determined young man is Sung Joon “Daniel” Park (16), a Korean student of the Maria Montessori Foundation who just started karting this year and won runner-up awards in the Formula SL Novice Class 2009 Magnolia Super Karting Series. He is very much supported by his dad, David, who devotedly accompanies his son during practice and races.

Daniel related that he makes it a point to finish all his schoolwork before the weekend so that he can practice on Saturday and race on Sunday. “Practice starts very early and if I don’t do my schoolwork during weekdays, I won’t have the strength anymore to do them after practice.”

The same is true for the other four boys. All agree that school has to come first or else their parents won’t allow them to race. The boys also maintain that they have learned much in terms of being responsible and safe drivers.

Another member of the team is Christopher Joseph “CJ” Tsui (13) whose mom, Cynthia, is also giving her all out support, “as long as he gets A’s in school.” CJ, whose interests extend to golf, soccer, and basketball, has been keeping his part of the bargain.

Antonio Sebastian “Basti” Escalante (10), the youngest driver in the R2R Team, started karting just last year and yet has already raked in runner-up awards in the MiniROK Class 2009 Magnolia Super Karting Series and the Cadet 60cc Class 2008 Shell Super Karting Series. His admits that racing has a positive influence on his academics because he now learns more quickly in school. “It’s like driving, you have to be quick and precise, so I learn faster and a lot!”

The proud dads, Chito, Toti and David, all recognize that karting has given them precious bonding moments with their sons. “It has given me the opportunity to be involved in something we both enjoy doing,” says Toti who serves as Juha’s coach, mechanic and inspiration at the track. The R2R Team is currently the biggest in the local karting scene. They hold karting clinics every quarter and continue to recruit talented and aspiring drivers. They also hold cadet races annually to discover prodigies and bring new kids into the sport.

That afternoon, Chito let all the young guests try karting. Those who were too small rode with the R2R racers while the bigger ones got to experience driving by themselves. They rode the rental EK karts which, I was relieved to note, looked and sounded tamer than the champion’s karts.

Looking at how (seemingly) expertly my two sons took the tracks’ curves, I realized that I need not have worried. Being kids in their fast-paced generation, like their expert counterparts, they confidently took on the challenge and passed with flying colors. Nobody got hurt and every young person who got off each kart when the 10 minutes was up was wearing a big, big smile on his or her face.

Find out more about R2R and the rest of the team at or email You may also contact Chito Benito at 0917-8409598 or 0922-8409598 or Mariel Wong at 0922-8910278 to inquire about their products, services and karting clinics.

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