For a veteran motoring journalist like me, ride and drive events have become so routinary, it’s like having tapsilog for breakfast everyday.
Waking up early in the morning, taking a sumptuous meal in a rendezvous point, driving to a destination, testing or honing driving skills on high speed tracks or dirt roads, returning the brand new vehicle, and finally, heading home feeling a hint of envy for the one who will own the vehicle I just enjoyed.
Car companies by now know that. To offer some excitement, they have become more creative in organizing test drive events. They’ve come up with different strategies like fun games, raffles and even singing contests. Many times, the ride-and-drive events have even strayed from the real essence of the activity – and that is to learn and appreciate the new product.
Very recently, I found something aside from games and raffles to spice up my ride and drive experience.
Inside the vehicle, I discovered a remarkable navigator – a popular race car driver who ruled the race tracks in the past two decades or more.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Mr. Jojo Silverio! Son of racing legend Dante Silverio, formerly head of Delta Motor Phils., then exclusive distributor of Toyota vehicles, Jojo was one of the navigators who guided 28 motoring journalists in the “Chevrolet’s Journey to the Big League” event of The Covenant Car Company, Inc. (TCCCI) held in Tagaytay Highlands last Tuesday. It was an on- and off-road driving experience with the Chevrolet Trailblazer SUV and sitting beside me as navigator was the popular race car driver!
Jojo had been invited by racing brothers, Georges and Louie Ramirez, to the Chevrolet event.
For me, involving the names of Silverio and Ramirez certainly added premium and excitement to Chevrolet’s event.
It was a strange scene. I had to admit that I dreamed of navigating for a race champ like Jojo but not him navigating for me! In that 15-minute Trailblazer run through off-road terrain, Jojo was my co-driver. I was tempted to brag a little, to let him know that I bagged the “Navigator of the Year” award in a rally series in 2005, when I navigated for a Belgian race driver. But there was no time for that.
What was it like to be in the same cabin as Jojo Silverio, the race car champion? Cool and composed, Jojo talked about the features of the Trailblazer with authority, while I drove it through a short off-road trail in Katsura Subdivision of Tagaytay Highlands.
He knew the Trailblazer very well. He pointed to an uphill where I had to put the vehicle to a complete halt.
Without the aid of the handbrake, Jojo told me to step on the accelerator and feel the mid-size, seven-seater, diesel-fed luxury move forward. In highlighting its Hill Start Assist feature, I need not worry about the 2.8-liter brute packed with 180 HP and 470NM of torque moving backwards as I released my foot from the pedal.
The same thing happened when he explained the Hill Descent Control.
“Are you still racing?” I asked Jojo. Even in the short dirt course, we engaged in some getting-to-know-the-champ talk.
He said the last time he raced was last year. “I joined four races in Subic and Clark,” he replied.
While I shifted from Four-High to Four-Low drive select mode, Jojo talked about the prospects of Philippine motorsports. With the country’s economy improving, Jojo said he hopes that would be felt in the field of motorsports.
As I enjoyed the superb riding comfort of the Trailblazer while negotiating a 50-degree slope, our conversation drifted toward the late Pinoy race champ Dodjie Laurel who died in a car crash in the Macau Grand Prix in the 1960s.
Going with him was his dream of putting up a race track in Corregidor, not only for motorsports but also to help boost tourism.
Jojo shares Dodjie’s aspiration to have more racing circuits in the country to lure more Pinoys in engaging in motorsports. Like Dodjie, Jojo believes in the talents of Filipinos.
Along the dusty off-road trail, the conversation turned to navigators commands. Jojo told me to push harder with the Trailblazer to feel how it behaves in loose soil. By then, I was starting to feel how powerful the Trailblazer is. Spacious and robust, I contemplated on inviting five construction workers walking toward the hillside to ride with us just to validate my praises of the Trailblazer.
On our way back to the activity tent, my reporter’s mind was tempted to ask Jojo if he plans to join a rally. My question was not encouraged by a possible story; I wanted to ask him if he will need a co-driver soon.
Perhaps my Navigator of the Year award could be thrown into the conversation.
But Jojo had turned serious in his navigator’s role. He called my attention to the Trailblazer's high-tech features, and how they enhanced the comfort and pleasure of driving that SUV.
Finally, it was the end of my drive. I had to ask when is the next Chevrolet ride-and- drive event?