Amassing 7 podium finishes in total (11 if you include class trophies), Mercedes Young Driver Development Philippines delivered one of its most dominant performances in MiniRok XCS at what could be the toughest race of the season.
Rounds 5 and 6, held back-to-back last August 19/20, featured the first-ever Night Race at the flood-lit Clark International Speedway Kart Track. Not only did the drivers have to contend with limited visibility, but also adjust to varying track temperatures as the sun went down. These were the challenges team tuner Richard Peek faced and relied on his years of experience to deliver solid results.
Saturday was off to a good start with all of the team’s 5 entries setting good times during Qualifying. Axel Nocom lead the way in pole position, TJ Santiago in 3rd, and Kraige Berdos in 4th overall. Novice Class karters Lucas Aldave and Reign Alojado also did well to stay on pace with their teammates in 9th and 10th overall, respectively.
Mercedes YDDP was in full control during Heat 1 with Kraige, TJ, and Axel finishing 1-2-3 crossing the line nose-to-tail. Lucas was the highest-placed Novice in 5th with Reign not too far behind in 7th. Their only hiccup happened during Heat 2 when several karters collided and dropped Axel down to 9th. TJ was able to escape the chaos to take 1st, while Kraige was 4th, Lucas 5th, and Reign in 8th.
Making up for the earlier mishap, Axel bounced back hard during the Finals. He got the holeshot at the start and surged from P6 to the lead after only 3 corners. The 3-time MiniRok champion then laid on fast, consistent laps to open up a commanding 6.996 sec gap by the time he crossed the finish line and win the Finals. Kraige concluded the race in 2nd for a 1-2 finish for Mercedes YDDP. Lucas and Reign also landed spots on the podium with their 2nd and 4th place finishes in the Novice class. Sadly, TJ couldn’t join the festivities after he suffered a mechanical issue and ended up last.
The team maintained their strong form come Sunday for Round 6. Mercedes YDDP karters took up the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th spots in Qualifying. Kriage then lead the way in Heat 1, followed by Lucas in 2nd, TJ in 3rd, and Axel in 4th securing the Top 4 spots for the team. Heat 2 was again a 1-2-3 lockout, this time with Axel taking 3rd and TJ in 6th. Reign also improved on his results with a pair of 7th place finishes for the Novice Class karter.
The first-ever Night Race was truly a show of force for Mercedes YDDP, best demonstrated by their performance in the Finals. It was TJ’s chance to shine with a masterclass drive that saw him take the #85 kart to victory. Axel made sure that it was another 1-2-3 finish for the team as he tagged Kraige along with him to secure 2nd and 3rd in MiniRok Expert, respectively. The Novice Class podium was also dominated by Mercedes YDDP with Lucas and Reign taking 1st and 2nd spots, delivering the best possible result for the team.
After 6 events in 2023, Axel Nocom holds onto an 18 points lead in MiniRok Expert ahead of Kraige Berdos in 2nd and TJ Santiago a further 85 points behind. As for MiniRok Novice, Lucas Aldave is 2nd in the standings and only 29 points shy off the leader, while his teammate Reign Alojado is 3rd. Mercedes YDDP now has its eyes set on the final 2 rounds of the year on September 10 and November 5 as it closes in on the MinRok Expert and Novice championships.
Mercedes Young Driver Development Philippines is supported by Motul Infiniteserv International, Alpinestars, Alaska Milk Corporation, Recaro Philippines, DENSO, Pocari Sweat, and WrapTeck.
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[Photos by Bong Boado]