The first motor racing circuit in the Philippines, Subic Bay International Raceway was a bumpy blast round the remains of a former US Naval Air Force base. It owes its existence in part to a volcanic eruption and subsequently the efforts of local racing enthusiasts.
The bay, on the west coast of the island of Luzon, was an important strategic harbour, originally established as naval base by the Spanish in 1884, before subsequently being captured by the United States in 1899. It would go on to become a base for the US fleet during the Pacific operations of World War Two, with a Naval Air Station also being built on the site. It remained in active use until 1991, when the eruption of the nearby volcanic Mount Pinatubo caused major damage and forced the evacuation and eventual withdrawal of US troops.
While the runway was soon utilised as a civilian airport, the perimeter roads and old fuel farm and refuelling installations remained abandoned for several years until the intervention of famed local racing driver Pocholo Ramirez, who saw the potential of the site for racing. Together with Mike Potenciano and five other icons of Philippine motor racing, Ramirez set about creating the first permanent motor racing facility in the country.
The original course, which opened in 1994, was centred around the former fuel farm, with pits and paddock created on a concrete apron, with the course then stretching out along perimeter roads alongside the runway to a tight hairpin, before blasting back towards the start through a series of esses. A short course, centred around the former refuelling area, was also extensively used for local events.
Since then, the improvement and development of the track and competence of its officials was at a constant pace. It gained FIM approval in 1997 and its grade four FIA license in 1998.
Major modifications saw the establishment of a brand new course in 2002, featuring a new pit and paddock area, roughly at 45 degrees to the original. Further modifications came in 2005 and 2009, when the blast along the perimeter roads was modified to separate the course from a public road which was constructed alongside it.
Subic Bay itself also saw considerable development, aiding the circuit's expansion. Hotels, restaurants, casinos, golf, yacht clubs and aqua sports centres sprang up, establishing the area as one of the country's big tourist destinations. The circuit prospered, hosting the biggest national races and developing a diverse range of uses for the track, ranging from high performance driving school to corporate uses such as product launches and car tests.
The Asian Festival of Speed (AFOS), featuring the Southeast Asian Touring Car Zone Challenge (SEATCZC) and the Asian Formula 2000 series, soon became familiar attractions, while in later years the Asian F3 championship also visited.
However, after a 17-year spell, the circuit closed to racing in 2010. A 'Last Lap' event saw racers gather for the final race in August, to bid farewell to what was once their home-from-home. Today, the racing spirit continues at the Batangas and Clark International circuits.
This is a historic circuit which is no longer in operation.
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Subic Bay International Raceway was located alongside Subic Bay International Airport in Luzon, Philippines. The remains of the circuit were still undeveloped and slightly overgrown as of 2012.
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