with Enzo Pastor in AF3 (secured already) and Mike Potenciano in AF2000. read on....

Controversy Drops Potenciano to 2nd in AF2000 Championship

Zhuhai,China-The thunderous celebrations of the ZED-SAN MIGUEL BEER-MP TURBO Team Philippines came to an abrupt end when a controversial ruling after the final race in the Zhuhai International Circuit dropped the country`s lone hope, Mike Potenciano, from the AF2000 Championship first overall position.

Potenciano missed the title by 2 points when a jump-start penalty was given to the final race winner, Malaysian driver Zarith Alfian. Singapore`s Dennis Lian inherited the race win and the AF2000 Title. Potenciano, driving superbly and patiently during the final 2 rounds, was in shock to learn that his Title was stripped at the end of the race.

“We are still in shock,” said Mike after the race. “We were already celebrating like crazy in the pits when an official called our attention that there was a jump start made by the winner and he will be excluded from first place. We couldn`t believe it because they never gave us any indication that a penalty will be given. We drove only up to 4th because this was enough to win the championship with Dennis in 2nd. This is definitely the worst day in my racing career.”

The controversy didn`t end there. The rest of the teams competing in the series threw their support behind the Filipino driver and asked him to file a protest for a similar offense made by Japanese lady driver Keiko Ihara, which went unnoticed and never penalized. If the protest was upheld, Potenciano would be upgraded to 2nd place overall and would maintain the championship title. It took more than 2 hours to deliberate and no further penalties were given. Potenciano dejectedly took the 2nd place podium finish in the awarding ceremonies.

“We have experienced the bad side of race officiating in the past but this is definitely the most ill-timed and worst kind of penalty that has been dealt to us. After a great morning`s race, this was really very, very hard to take,” Potenciano added.

Potenciano and Lian were even in points going into the first race in Zhuhai after Lian took pole for round 12 and gained 1 point for his effort. Potenciano drove aggressively in round 11 and took 3rd place in points to beat Lian and Indonesia`s Meckel Ali, who finished in 4th and 6th places respectively. This gave the San Pablo native a 6-point cushion entering the last race and allowed him to calculate the positions he needed to finish to take the title. However, the unforeseen hand of the local race officials ended the dream of the Filipinos to have their team on the topmost spot in the podium. His bitterness and anger though was exposed to all during the press conference after the awarding ceremonies.

“I hope that the series might have ended in a straight fight for the title. It should never be taken away from us in this manner,” Mike said during the press conference. “I`m too old for this and no one deserves this.”

His 2nd place overall effort is the best ever by a Filipino in the most prestigious international series in the region. Mike’s successful campaign was supported by ZED, the world`s largest mobile services provider, SAN MIGUEL BEER-the Philippines` internationally-acclaimed beer, GULF OIL, SAMBO Construction Company, ABANTE Newspaper, BLTBCO and MP TURBO.

“We are happy that most of the drivers in the series, including the top competitors for the title, and the AFOS series organizers, acknowledged us as the moral victor of the AF2000 Title. We worked hard and drove our best in this series. We just hope that we can be this close to another title shot in the future.”