Charles Osmeña, Jude Flores, Jeffrey Uraya, Anton Villacin and Choming Marques departed the country last Wednesday. They arrived home six days later. The all-boys excursion? The Singapore Grand Prix.
“This was my third Singapore F1 race,” said Anton Villacin, a Formula One diehard and member of the BMW club, BimmerCebu. “The nice thing about this race, aside from its being near and Cebu Pacific offers affordable rates, is that it’s a street circuit and a night race—the only one in the calendar.”
For Choming Marques, it was his second F1 visit to the Lion City. “This year, we came back to catch a glimpse of Michael Schumacher,” said Choming. “During practice, the commentator said on the loudspeaker: ‘Michael Schumacher is the Best Rookie in this race!’ We laughed.” Schumacher’s attendance—his first in Singapore—made the race bigger. “Bigger attendance, bigger production in and outside the race track,” said Anton.
“The guy we went to see this year,” said Anton of M. Schumacher
The race-day experience? “It was phenomenal. We went to the track early at 4 p.m. and, to our surprise, the track was packed! (Last year, we went at 5 and were still able to find a spot.) This year we had to fight through the thick crowd to reach the railings,” said Anton. “We got Walkabout tickets which means we don’t have designated grandstand seats but we can stand by the rails. We had to endure the pain of standing from 4 to 10 p.m. but it paid of as we saw Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa and Vitantonio Liuzzi pass right in front of us.
“Since we were just meters from the track, I could feel my chest vibrate as the cars passed… their engines were loud. I could hardly hear myself after the race! After the race we walked around the track for picture-taking; I was able to pick up some carbon fiber debris from Kamui Kobayashi’s BMW Sauber!”
“Walkabout tickets are preferred by hardcore fans or photographers because you’re closer (only five feet from the fence). In the race itself, Alonso started in pole position followed by Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. This had to be one of the most exciting races… the safety car coming out many times and Team Lotus’ car catching fire. Webber and Hamilton also collided which took Hamilton out of the race,” said Choming.
“That’s when we saw Hamilton pissed; he threw his steering wheel like a boomerang! As the race went on we were still on our feet leaning on the fence… our patience paid off when Hamilton walked right in front of us! We got pictures. He didn’t seem happy at all. To think I also got a picture of Massa the day before when his car spun out during qualifying! In the end, Alonso won and everyone did victory laps which was slow, so we got to see the drivers wave to the crowd.”
The race wasn’t all about cars. It was also about the pre- and post-race parties. “There were support races (Formula BMW Asia, Porsche Cup),” said Anton. “We checked out Missy Elliot, Mariah Carey, dropped by the Freestyle Trial Bikes and stayed throughout DJ Tiga!” said Choming. “There was so much going on all afternoon till early morning, even as you walk around the different zones buying food, drinks or more shirts (he-he). You’ll also be enjoying the night skyline of Singapore. You have to remember the track is in the city; we were amazed with the Sands Hotel and its Sky deck.”
Anton added: “If you’re a fan, it would be nice to watch the race live at least once. The experience got me hooked. The energy on trackside is phenomenal. It’s about the total experience. You get to see things you don’t on TV: food stalls, music stages, F1 merchandise stalls, vintage cars display, race simulators where you can try for free, sponsors’ booths, video walls and giant TV screens, and you see F1 fanatics complete with costumes of their teams.”
“As a bonus, if you’re lucky, you get to see celebrities,” said Anton. “I almost had a chance to shake hands with one of the most ‘inspiring’ figures, Sir Richard Branson (cars & girls baby!), but when I bumped into him in Clark Quay, I froze…”
Would you highly recommend the experience to other Cebuanos? I asked.
“Definitely!” Choming replied. “I heard from other people that Singapore comes alive during race weekend, more events, more people and more money to spend if your not to careful, It may seem very expensive to experience an event like this but if you plan ahead you can get great deals on the flights, hotels and if you know the Right people Great Food!! thank you DJ B for pointing us to the very best Hainanese Chicken!!”
Answered Anton: “I would highly recommend the experience to cebuano F1 fans at least once. For us, this is the cheapest and most convenient F1 race in the calendar. Take advantage of early booking rates from airlines and hotels. And since it is a street race held in the middle of the city, you get to watch the race and shop at the same time. You can even bring your family along and they can go shopping at the huge malls surrounding the track while you and your buddies watch the race. It would also help if you know someone from there to act as your tour guide to the best shops and authentic foods around the city. Thanks to DJ B (Zouk resident DJ) for bringing us to the authentic hainanese chicken rice restaurant, the best I have tasted ever!”