Clark for thrill seekers

This former hub of military exercises and R&R has reinvented itself as a haven for adventure sports

By Oggie Ramos Photos by Jeffrey Sonora

Drift driver Audel Sison poses with his car, fully set up for drifting

Drifting is a motorsport
Where the driver intentionally over steers, causing loss of traction in the rear wheels through turns while maintaining control and exiting at high speed. For drivers like Audel Sison with a taste for the extreme, it was the next big challenge. “The first drifting competition in the Philippines took place in January 2006; I had to use somebody else’s car because of problems with my own. I had practice, but went home with second place.”

Age – Sison is now 47 – apparently has not slowed him down a bit. “I still have passion for extreme. My nerves tingle when I drift. But these days I also teach. One thing I tell my students is that you and your car should become one. You should sense every movement, every nudge of the car, and know where it’s going.

“There are four criteria in judging: Entry speed, clipping point, angle of attack and style. Your purpose is to create more angle, to get close to the clips without toppling them. And of course, you’ve got to do this with style, with confidence.”

He likens drifting to “poetry in motion,” a notion difficult to get your head round. Five minutes with him in the passenger seat was enough adrenaline for me. While I was glued to my bucket seat, too wired up to think about anything but when my heart rate will normalize again, Sison looked composed and in his element. He effortlessly steered the car into a sideslip, glided sideways at 140kph as the tires squealed and the tracks heated up along the treacherous uphill and downhill stretch of the Clark speedway.

So what does it take to be a good drifter? Sison’s advice: “the right tuner who can set up your car properly and the means to buy tires, fuel and race parts. And of course, a good teacher.”

Sison, a 2011 Pro-Am Lateral Drifting overall champion, teaches students at the Clark Speedway. One lesson costs P4,000 (about US$85) per day if you have your own car, and P18,000 if you use his championship car, exclusive of track fee. Call +63927 601 8133, email [email protected], visit Autocraft drift team and Dr. Drift.

Off- road racer Jojo Javier and his Suzuki Samurai

A veteran of numerous races
Jojo Javier counts the Colt 45 Tough Truck Challenge held at the Clark Speedway in December 2011 as his most memorable. “There were trucks that overturned on their front because track got more and more slippery as the race went on. I was second to the last, the 19th runner, and got to race at seven in the evening. It was raining and dark with the only illumination coming from headlamps and just a few floodlights.” Driving a Suzuki Samurai outfitted with a Toyota Landcruiser engine and differential, he finished a respectable fifth out of 20 racers.

“The scary part of the course is what we call the wall of death. Climbing it is hard enough. But coming down the wall is even more nerve-wracking – there’s a real possibility that your vehicle may tumble forward.”

The 4x4 off-road racing sounds like big fun but it isn’t for the vain nor faint hearted, according to Javier. “By the end of the race, you end up smelling like the road,” he said. For those who don’t mind trading the requisite scent of mud for rush of adrenaline, you’ll need the resources to own a specially-modified vehicle and lots of racing time. “A good mechanic is also a must”. For more on off-roading, you can contact Jojo Javier, tel +63917 887 7713 or visit Pampanga Off- Roaders Club, Inc.

Mountain climber Nesty Zapanta on a trail in Mt. Arayat

"I climb to test my endurance" 
“To see how far I can go. But part of my motivation comes from the fact that I get the opportunity to teach people about the mountains, and the need to keep them free of trash. That’s a big deal for me.” Every climber has his share of tough trails and for Nesty Zapanta, that’s the Delta 5 trail of Mt. Pinatubo. “It is technical and extremely exhausting. Hiking it for the first time in 2003 was a terrifying experience for me, and my group from the Angelenos Mountaineering Society. We started the trek at 7am and reached the campsite at 10pm. What we thought was going to be an easy climb turned out to be the opposite.” Closer to home in Pampanga, he says “Mt. Arayat is another good local climb. You can climb to the summit in four to five hours. The trail starts at Barangay Ayala in the town of Magalang. For a traverse from the North to South Peaks, you enter through Magalang and exit to Barangay San Juan Banyo in the town in Arayat. We use the mountain for training every time we have a major climb. Trail Adventours offers guided climbs of Mt. Arayat, P2,900 per person for a group of five people, and of Mt. Pinatubo Delta trail 5 for P4,500 per person for a group of five as well. For inquiries call +632 802 3401, visit Trail Adventours.

Next time, try paragliding

Paragliders say that once you’ve taken off, rising a few hundred feet, slowly climbing, until you can see the land disappear beneath you like toy town, and feel the freedom of flight, chances are you’re hooked.

Randell “Buko” Raymundo, a world champion paraglider and paragliding pioneer in the country, says “it’s flying like a bird. If you see a bird up in the air that’s not flapping its wings, that bird is using a ridge lift or thermal to stay aloft. The same principle applies to paragliding.” The thermal is a blob of air rising from part of the ground heated up by the sun.

“Anyone can paraglide,” says Raymundo,” as long as they are physically fit – meaning able to walk up and down a mountain ridge and carry their equipment. It’s not physically demanding as joining triathlons or other cardiovascular-endurance sports, but it will demand mental alertness.” You use all your senses to feel the wind, listen to it flow through the land. Depending on the wind conditions, height and experience, flight takes anywhere from a few seconds to several hours. For basic paragliding courses, call +63917 816 7820.

Book a stay at Holiday Inn Clark located inside the Clark Freeport Zone. Room rates start at P6,820. For inquiries and reservations call +6345 599 8000, visit Holiday Inn. An alternative hotel to stay in Clark is Hotel Stotsenberg, which has cable TV and WiFi available in its rooms. Room rates start at P 6,600. For inquiries and reservations call +6345 499 0777, visit Hotel Stotsenberg. For something more affordable, Wild Orchid Resort along Johnny St. in Balibago has a starting room rate of P3,500 for a deluxe room. For inquiries and reservations call +6345 458 0781, visit Wild Orchid Resort.

Originally published in InFlight Traveller January 2012. Updated April 2016