HE may not admit it, but the pressure is on for Larry Mendiola.
With impressive finishes in international events and enhancements done to the Land Rover Defender, all eyes are on the diminutive driver to shine anew.
Add to that the inclusion of his son Hirryan to the Philippine crew seeing action in the Summer Rain Forest Challenge (RFC) on Hainan Island in China from August 18 to 24.
The younger Mendiola is said to have the driving skills to match his old man and is being groomed to take over, but the elder, multititled offroader shrugs off the comparisons.
“Sa kanya ang pressure niyan,” said the 43-year-old Mendiola, a four-time Automobile Association of the Philippines 4×4 Driver of the Year awardee, with a wry smile.
The pressure there was evident as the younger Mendiola, a mechanic at Formula Sports Inc. and official mechanic of this year’s squad, slipped off the interview area upon hearing that from his old man.
“Excited ako, kasi sa tingin ko mas malaki ang chances namin ngayon,” said Jamila.
Land Rover Philippines is not putting any pressure on the squad, but after fine performances in the past, it would be hard not to expect from Mendiola and codriver Sergio “Atoy” Jamila.
The two have won numerous titles, including the crown in the electric winch category last year in Hainan aboard a diesel Defender 90.
“All the years wala naman kaming naging major mechanical problem. Very minor, naayos agad. We just have to be careful and not be too aggressive, we are confident we can perform well,” said Jamila.
The two again lead the Philippine squad, this time aboard a Defender with a bigger 3.9 liter V8 petrol engine—the vehicle they used in placing first runner-up in its division and eight overall in the Rain Forest Challenge Malaysia 2009, now with a power takeoff winch.
“We have very good chances of making it to the top spots,” said Robbi Consunji, the RP representative to the Rain Forest Challenge and president of Land Rover Club of the Philippines.
“But to be realistic, there is no requirement that they come back with a win. I think we’re more proud to fly the Philippine flag more than anything else.
“We’re not going there with a clear idea that we must be number four or three, or we’re gonna be number one.
“I think when the boys race, they’re just very very proud to bring the Philippine flag. If we come back with a placing, four or five, better than last year, we’ll be happy also.”
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