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Akhina and Andretti Santos on chasing karting glory with proper team backing

To succeed in motorsports you need two things: talent and money. While the latter is harder to come by, there’s a pair of promising young talents who are working their way up the ladder through dedication, consistency, and proper sponsorship. We’re talking about Akhina and Andretti Santos, siblings who are making a name for themselves in karting with help from those who share their passion for racing.

It’s quite obvious how 12-year-old Akhina and 9-year-old Andretti got their love for motorsports. (Heck, even their names are derived from the sport.) They are the children of touring car and hillclimb champion Alvin Santos. And if there’s one person who knows the business of the sport, it’s dad.

Alvin didn’t win races based on his ‘abilities’ alone. After several years self-funding his entries, his talent caught the eye of Mark Young Racing who gave him a seat in their slalom team. He proved to be such an effective driver that he got promoted to touring cars and won four Philippine Touring Car Championship (PTCC) and Petron SVI Challenge titles in 2007. Alvin also shined in the Hillclimb Club of the Philippines (HCCP) where he claimed two championship trophies driving the legendary green Cars Unlimited Honda CR-X. But his stint in motor racing took a back seat as he shifted his focus to fatherhood.

Unsurprisingly, both Akhina and Andretti took after their father and showed interest for cars from a very early age. So, when the right time came, Alvin brought them to their very first Petron Motorsports Karting Academy clinic when Akhina was just 8 and Andretti was 5. Only Akhina was old enough though to enter the race the following day and, to their surprise, finished 3rd on her very first event.

Was it natural talent? Maybe. But what the Santos family was certain of was that that both their kids were going racing.

Getting one kid into motorsports, however, is not cheap let alone when you have two. Thankfully, the siblings’ talent were swiftly noticed by the Mercedes Young Driver Development Philippines who took them under their wing for the 2021 season. While it was not a full sponsorship, with fixed costs such as entry fees and consumables still being forked out by Alvin, the team helped the two karters wherever possible.

Akhina and Andretti also gained the support of several people and companies who also backed their dad during his heydays. It came in all shapes and sizes such as as racing gear, helmet designs, and accommodations just to name a few.

Still, the family had to make compromises just to make it through all the races. One way to stretch their budget is to cut down on practice runs. While this limited both sibling’s valuable seat time, the team made sure that their karts and engines were always properly tuned before every race to give Akhina and Andretti the best chance to win. And win they did.

All their hard work later paid off with Akina wrapping up the 2021 season as Cadet Novice Champion and Cadet Overall Champion, earning her the Cadet Rookie Karter of the Year award. 7-year-old Andretti, on the the hand, came 3rd in Cadet Novice and Cadet Overall.

Looking back, team coach Richard Peek once said to Alvin, “remember when Akhina first showed up here at Carmona? I knew she had talent.”

Both the Santos kids would stay for another year with the team, with Akhina moving up to MiniROK and Andretti doing another year in Cadets. Akhina finished 2nd overall on her MiniROK debut season, while Andetti was awarded Cadet Expert Champion and Cadet Karter of the Year. All in all, Mercedes Young Driver Academy Philippines would support the siblings for two full seasons that yielded two championship titles.

Photo by RacersPh

Due to budget constraints, their dad Alvin seriously thought that this would be their last year racing. But little did Alvin know that both his kids would still be racing in 2023.

Mere months before the start of the new season, Alvin got a very special call from Formula E Racing Management-Resultado. It was an opportunity for Akhina and her younger brother Andretti to compete with the team and keep their racing dreams alive, with hopes of following in the footsteps of F1 Academy driver Bianca Bustamante.

While talent and money is needed to succeed in this discipline, there are ways to compensate for the lack of resources with an abundance of talent. And if you play your cards right, win enough races, and are likable, there’s a good chance you can continue chasing after karting glory with backing from a proper team, big or small.

[Photos by Bong Boado and RacersPh]

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Time Attack Manila

Time Attack Manila

Founded in late 2013, Time Attack Manila (TAM) is the only dedicated online magazine in the Philippines that focuses on local and international motorsports.
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Time Attack Manila

Time Attack Manila

Founded in late 2013, Time Attack Manila (TAM) is the only dedicated online magazine in the Philippines that focuses on local and international motorsports.
View All Posts
Time Attack Manila