BRINGING pride not just to his country but also to the city he grew up in, the rising star in the local motor sport community Mark Bernales of Cagayan de Oro has bagged the first place in the Solo Competition of the recently concluded Asia Auto Gymkhana Championship (AAGC) in Korea.
Initially qualified in the 10th place during the first day of the event, Bernales said he did not expect that he will be able to grab the first place in the solo category and even beat the top-speed driver Inyong Lee of Korea.
"Wala ko katoo actually nga nidaog ko. Murag grabe ka overwhelming nga feeling nga imong gihaguan, gipraktisan, kay actually wala man gyud ko mi-expect nga modaog ko," Bernales said.
According to Bernales, out of all the competitors he raced with during the competition, racing against Lee was the hardest.
"Ang pinakalisod nako nga nakontra katong Korea kay sila ang pinaka kusog adto nga time. So pag meet namo ni Korea, nakaingon ko nga unsaon nako sya'g pildi nga kusog man gyud sya," Bernales said.
Apart from his personal preparations that include practice drills and having a proper and positive mindset, being the first to represent Mindanao for the race car driving competition.
Despite the pressure, the supportive words from his teammates and coach pushed him to work harder and emerge victorious.
"Ang proper gyud nga akong giandam para ana nga lumba is ang ako gyud mindset. Although nag practice ko sa drive gyud pero ang pinakadako'g factor gyud is mindset kay usahay kanang tana-aw nimo imong kontra grabe kakusog, maguba na usahay ang imong mindset, imong game plan," Bernales said.
"Ako lang gyud gibutang sa akong hunahuna nga 'Kaya gyud ni, kaya gyud ni.' Dayun naghatag lang gyud ko og salig sa akong kaugalingon kay niingon man pud ang akong coach nga 'salig lang,'" he added.
Auto racing has been a huge part of Bernales' life as even in the young age of 6, he already showed interest in the said motor sport after watching his father who was an off road racer.
It was in 2015 that he officially started participating in auto races. However, it was also in the same year that he got into a car accident in Cagayan de Oro City and had to recuperate for almost a year in New York.
"Nawad-an ko'g gana. Unya gi try ko og pangita pamaagi nga makakuha ko og sakyanan," Bernales shared, saying that he worked in New York to earn money to buy his own car so he can participate in auto races again.
"Niapil dayun ko kanang AAP-MSDP (Automobile Association of the Philippines-Motorsports Developemnt Program), dako kaayo na sila og tabang kay ma-hone ang imong skills. makaingon gyud ka nga mausab gyud ang imong driving year by year," Bernales said.
"Tinuod to nga, pagdagan nako atong time, dili gyud maayo nga mag drive nga makainom kay gikan ko diha. So daghan ko'g natun-an nato. So ako gipakita sa akong ginikanan nga akong tarungon akong kaugalingon," he added.
At present, Bernales plans to teach in the Motorsports Development Program (MSDP) while open to participating more car race competitions in the country.
"Akong balos sa ila (MSDP) nga motudlo gyud ko kay gikan pud ko gitudluan. Motudlo ko, motabang ko, i-share nako kun unsa akong natun-an, kun unsa akong naagian kay gikan pud ko didto," Bernales said.
Apart from winning the first place in the AAGC's Solo Competition, Team Philippines also bagged the third place in the Doubles Race.
Team Philippines, composed of Bernales, Estefano Rivera and the lady driver Hazel Ramirez, is the fourth Overall in the Nations' Standings. If they are able to maintain the top 4 spot, Team Philippines will be qualified to participate in the FIA Continental Gymkhana Cup in Taiwan this November.