Page 14

Zoom Zoom Magazine Issue 29

14 \ZOOM-ZOOM THE CANNONBALL KING Twenty years ago, when North Luzon lacked the road network it enjoys today, Joey Almeda (above) would head up from Manila with a couple of friends and their dirt bikes to ride trails around the Halsema Highway, halfway up the island. Those initial forays formed the basis of today’s Cannonball 1000 route. “As the roads got better over the years, I began working out the best circular route to see all the greatest attractions,” Joey recalls. In January 2015, the inaugural Cannonball 1000 set off from the Royce Hotel in Clark, just outside Manila, with 600 participants, on bikes and in cars, aiming to complete the mighty Luzon loop in less than 24 hours. If you want to take part, visit: cannonballclubph.com Nestor Reyes guns the engine of his 1990 Mazda MX-5 and grins. “Sixteen hours, 45 minutes,” he barks, pausing for dramatic effect before barking again. “And TWO DAYS!” He laughs uproariously. The Cannonball 1000 is quite possibly the most exciting driving event in South East Asia, covering more than 620 miles of freeway, countryside, mountains and coastline in a tarmacked loop up and around North Luzon, the largest and most populous island in the Philippines. The vast majority of entrants complete the route well within 24 hours, sticking to legal speed limits and stopping just for fuel. Nestor’s time for finishing last year’s Cannonball, as we’ve just found out, was somewhat off the pace. In fact, he holds the record for posting the most leisurely time in the event’s three-year history. Not that he seems overly bothered. “You need to slow down to see the country properly,” he tells us sagely. Wise words, as we’re about to discover. It’s the night before we’re to set off on our own low-octane tour of the Cannonball 1000 route, and we’re in Manila, the Philippines’ capital, to meet members of the buoyant national Mazda club scene. With the glimmering skyscrapers of the city’s BGC business district looming over us, we gather driving advice from the presidents of the Mazda2 club and the MazdaTech club — which boasts 2,000 members around the country — as well as members of the CX-5 and Mazda3 SKYACTIV clubs. Common sense, lane discipline, headlights on after dark — all will be mostly absent from the 620 miles we have in front of us, the smiling club members inform us as we admire their cars in a neon-lit car park. While they’re all more than familiar with their country’s rural roads, none (apart from Nestor) have yet negotiated the Cannonball 1000. Our very own ride for this trip, an upgraded Mazda3 in Soul Red, attracts many admiring glances from the assembled club members. Model and features shown may not be to UK specifications


Zoom Zoom Magazine Issue 29
To see the actual publication please follow the link above