MANILA, MARCH 19, 2008
(STAR) By Junep Ocampo - People travel for various reasons: to relax, to see places, to experience other cultures. Some do it to fulfill dreams. Racegear F1 World AdvenTours helps people in the last category. For almost 10 years now, it has enabled hundreds of Filipinos to fulfill their dream of watching a Formula One race live.

Valerie Santos, Racegear’s executive director, said many Filipinos dream of seeing an F1 race in person but don’t know how.

“We help them realize their dream. Since 1999 clients have come to us wanting to watch F1 and they keep coming back, bringing family and friends with them.”

Valerie and husband Michael Santos are F1 diehards themselves. In fact, their business started merely as a hobby when Michael once bought an authentic F1 cap and was able to sell it at a profit to a friend.

“We found out that there is a demand for F1 merchandise here so we ventured into it,” Valerie remembers. Two years passed and with an F1 merchandise store in Katipunan and Rockwell, Racegear expanded to include F1 tours.

For ordinary mortals, television is the best medium for watching F1. It’s free and it’s convenient to watch in the comfort of one’s bedroom or living room. On TV, you never miss the action, be it in the hairpins or in the pits.

But for pureblooded F1 fans, there’s a whole different experience to racing. There’s the electricity, the spine-tingling sensation, and the actual eardrum-busting noise of F1 cars zooming by.

“The excitement of watching a live F1 race is indescribable,” said Valerie. “One has to be there to find out why F1 is so infectious. Our clients just can’t help but come back year in and year out.”

Valerie noted that many Racegear clients join the tours because they have become friends with other F1 diehards. “They enjoy the camaraderie. And some even strike business deals because many of our regular clients are the who’s who of Philippine business,” she said.

Racegear averages 30 guests in each of its tours. It has gone as high as 50 guests for the inaugural Shanghai Grand Prix two years ago, which happened to be the last race of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher.

A live F1 experience varies in costs, depending on where the race is held.

The most affordable is the Malaysian Grand Prix in Kuala Lumpur this coming Easter. Racegear charges only $798 plus taxes for a four-day-three-night trip that includes airfare, accommodation, and tickets to the F1 race.

A total of 22 F1 fans will be joining Racegear’s trip to Malaysia this week. They will be leaving Friday, March 21, and will watch the qualifying event on Saturday, the main race on Sunday, then fly back to Manila on Monday, March 24.

Valerie said Racegear normally books grandstand seats but clients can upgrade to better seats if these are available. Meals are optional, although in places like Shanghai where language can be a problem, Valerie insists on having meals prearranged.

“In our experience, our clients end up paying more if we leave them on their own in China,” she said.

Valerie has gone to F1 races in other parts of the world just to fulfill the dreams of her clients. She has brought Filipino F1 fans to Australia, Brazil, Monaco, France and even an entire family to the United Kingdom just to watch live races.

“That’s why we call it F1 World AdvenTours because we don’t just do Asian tours,” she said. Valerie is thrilled to announce the first night race in F1’s history will be held in September on a street track in Singapore.

Singapore authorities recently informed her that Racegear had been chosen to be an official F1 ticketing agent for the Philippines, authorized to sell F1 tickets as well as arrange tours and book hotels. Valerie is now excited to bring her clients to the island state.

“All our clients have become our friends. I could say that what they really look for aside from our friendly rates is our personalized service,” she said.

For those interested in going on an F1 adventour, text or call Racegear at 0917-5282725 or e-mail racegear@pldtdsl.net.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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