Believe what you want to believe in, but it’s officially official that Timothy Joseph “TJ” Alberto and Lawrence Macalinao are the newly-crowned 2023 champions in the Philippine Superbike Championship (PSBK). They endured a rollercoaster season finale at the Clark International Speedway (CIS) and fought their way to claim the Pro and Expert Class titles.
Holding onto a slim 3 point advantage, Access Plus Racing knew that they had work to do ahead of the final round of the year. They spent weeks in testing to squeeze every bit of performance out of their Ducati Panigale V4 R and V4 S. The team also entered a 3rd entry with Troy Alberto joining in the thick of the action.
TJ began the weekend by setting a new lap record during Qualifying with a 1:48.431 run, enough to put him on pole and ahead of his championship rival Marvin Mangulabnan. Troy would then start from P3 on the grid with his 1:49.799 lap, which was impressive considering he only arrived on track on Thursday and has not raced in PSBK since 2021. Lawrence was not too far behind in P5 and was the highest placed rider in the Expert division. He also set a new personal best with a 1:53.747, improving his own chances at taking the class title.
However, TJ saw his title hopes fade away after a jumpstart in Race 1. As it would certainly earn him a 10 secs penalty, he pushed hard to salvage as much points as possible and minimize the damage done. But in his haste, he lowsided his #77 Ducati mid-race and rejoined to cross the finish in a lowly 5th place. Troy, on the hand, continued the fight at the front and challenged Mangulabnan for the lead. He later took the chequered flag in 2nd on his first PSBK race in 2 years. Behind him was Lawrence who enjoyed a trouble-free run to claim 1st in the Expert Class and further extended his points lead.
Mangulabnan only had to finish 3rd or higher in Race 2 to claim the championship. With nothing to lose, TJ went on full attack mode and was right on Mangulabnan’s rear tire after only a handful of laps. TJ then saw an opportunity to make a move on T16, but made contact after Mangulabnan turned in as they went side-by-side. While his rival lost control of his BMW, TJ was able to remain upright and caught up to his brother Troy. The younger Alberto ended up winning the race with TJ coming in 2nd. This was enough for TJ to secure the PSBK Rider of the Year title for the 3rd consecutive year.
Lawrence was also fighting his own title battle in the Expert division. He built a considerable lead against his closest rival and could already see the championship in his sights. But as rain started to fall on the 4.189 km circuit, he decided to ease off and cruised to another class win with the Expert Class championship in tow.
TJ Alberto, #77: “It was really an incredible fairytale ending to the season and really happy to win my 3rd PSBK title in a row. Kudos also to my teammate Lawrence for taking the Expert Class championship. Really proud of him as I saw how much work he put into this and how much it meant to him. Also nice to be racing alongside my brother Troy after 2 years.”
Lawrence Macalinao, #26: “So happy to win the Expert Class championship! It hasn’t been an easy season and worked hard to be on top. A big thanks to the whole Access Plus Racing and Ducati Philippines family for their efforts. Without them, I wouldn’t be champion. Congratulations also to TJ for bagging the championship for the 3rd time!”
Troy Alberto, #69: “The team was great all weekend and I had a great time adjusting back to PSBK. I had a lot of fun and scored a win and a podium, so I can’t complain. Congrats also to my teammates TJ and Lawrence for winning their respective championships. They and the team have been working hard all year and it is well deserved.”
Toti Alberto, Team Principal: “An amazing result for Access Plus Racing with both our riders winning their respective championships. It was a good conclusion to the 2023 season. We fought all the way to the end and by God’s grace came on top. Congratulations to TJ for his 3rd consecutive title and to Lawrence for winning the Expert Class championship. Also good to see Troy enjoy racing back on home soil.”
Access Plus Racing is sponsored by Ducati Philippines, Angkas, Shell Advance Motorcycle Oils, ArmyNavy Burger + Burrito, Frontrow, Makati Diamond Residences, Katinko Oil and Ointment, Macbeth, Aella, LV8 Elevate, Extreme Components, STM, and Öhlins Racing.