Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Maico Buncio, his talent, success and destiny. And some little things about him most people may not know.

I have never written a long one for quite a while now; the last time is when I wrote my girlfriend a really long article. Looks like is the right time to pen my thoughts about my friend Maico.

The crash which saw Maico Buncio, has stirred up so much controversy, sorrow and loss in the face of the sport. Tragedy has struck the motorcycle racing community in May 15, 2011 when 22 year old 4x Champion National Superbike racer Maico Buncio succumbed to internal injuries sustained in a crash during the Qualifying practice in the Clark International Race Circuit.

It is clear that the Factory Yoshimura-spec 2011 Suzuki GSX-R 600 is a fickle beast, responding only as and when it sees being powerful, just as seen in his race in Sepang, Malaysia. But it also appears that the intricate tweaking and precision set-up that have been made last weekend on the bike may mean that the beast has had its toll, in the end, the bike bites the owner’s hand and may have gone to devouring its owner whole

The crash happened on a fast sweeping corner. Maico lost traction while pushing hard, falling into a 100-metre runoff colliding into a concrete wall with rusty steel protrusions. No one could have avoided the wall but it was a lottery pick for Maico’s abdomen to have stricken the steel protrusion.

The Clark racetrack is a relatively new facility that is supposed to comply with international safety standards such as FIA/FIM rules that accommodates all sorts of professional road racing. Though still under construction, Clark is fun and challenging with several overtaking points, it has been regarded as the “Laguna Seca” of Asia because of the undulating terrain consisting a corkscrew-esque section — albeit a longer high speed stretch than its predecessor in Batangas.

Even with its current application in complying international standards, and to which, has currently been accredited at some level. Clark is obviously unfinished; the track’s facilities are rather, rudimentary; permanent paddock areas are not yet existent, toilets are of far distance and the most important of all, safety barriers are not taken into serious thought.

Though every beginning of the race, all riders sign a waiver with a fine print that states "...motorcycle racing is a very dangerous sport, the organizers shall not be liable, etc..." Even with these, there will always be many speculations that the track owners cannot dodge.

There has been much bemoaning of late Maico Buncio and his family that the whole safety commission has been full of talk and not much precaution. There have been plenty of complaints about the dangerous run-offs of certain corners, and there was not much evidence to back the accusations up with. Well, that situation certainly changed last weekend. The tragedy is now a cause for a crying call for safer racetracks.

Maico was currently leading in the championship standings in National Superbike, having almost straight consecutive wins and titles since he joined the sport. Since then, he had been a consistent force in motorcycle racing throughout all classes, 115GP, 130GP, Superbike and even automatic 180cc, always challenging at the front. Maico first rode two wheels when he was a little toddler riding motocross bikes under his dad Yoyong’s guidance and passion. He is backed up by his entire family, a very excellent Filipino trait. He has climbed up gradually and was able to dominate and raise the bar of the sport. He has definitely proved that Filipinos can do it, unarguably the best we have.

In 2008, he also has joined the AMA Formula Supersport series in the US competing with Eric Bostrom, Hayden brothers and Chaz Davies; he alsocompeted in various races in Japan and India. And in 2010, he was competing in another international series called the Asian Road Race Championship riding a Yoshimura-spec 2011 Suzuki GSX-R 600 under team Suzuki Pilipinas’ management.

Maico and I had been very close to each other when it comes to talks about MotoGP and Valentino Rossi. Contrary to popular belief, Maico is not at all a fan of Jorge Lorenzo or Casey Stoner, but many thanks though to his helmet/apparrel sponsor Motoworld for his current flashy Lorenzo and Stoner replicas by X-Lite/Nolan for making his cranium safe. He is the brand ambassador also of RS Taichi race suits; he was even in the official international catalog cover of the Japanese suit manufacturer.

Anyway, back to GP talk, Maico is a die-hard Valentino Rossi fan, a 9-time MotoGP world champion and considered as the best racer in history. Not surprisingly, Maico is also regarded as the Rossi of the Philippines. Maico can speak fluent English, but to those who have seen his recent interview video in YouTube, he talks funny, it is because he has the Italian Valentino Rossi speaking in his mind.

When I first met Buncio in 2007, we talked about Faster, the MotoGP movie. I am very impressed that he memorized all of Rossi’s lines as much as I did, he wanted to be like Rossi so bad, or even better. He always mentioned that he wanted to meet Rossi at the races soon; though it never happened, I get to meet Rossi personally every year, my brother and I are somehow in acquaintances with Valentino and we are also good friends with his mechanic, Alex Briggs. We told them about Maico’s story and we made sure that Maico is known by his hero.

Buncio is also a fan of multiple Superbike champion Ben Spies, the American, now riding for factory Yamaha in MotoGP. It is obvious in his “elbowz” style of superbike riding, elbows out, planted on the ground, dragging into the corner! And yes, Maico has that kind of riding style; he learned that from motocross and AMA racing in the US. Maico is also known for the moniker “PACMAN”, a logo that can be seen in his 129 sticker, he devours his leading opponents one by one just like the Pacman game, and also, to many, he is considered the undefeatable Pacquiao of racing.

I visit him in his own YRS race store in the Caloocan branch about once a month, he drives to work on a Nissan Navarra pick-up truck with a special alphanumeric plate number of YRS... And yes, you have guessed the next three numbers. But in an ordinary day he rides to work on a very modest stock underbone bike, the tip of the rear mudguard is heavily scraped off resulting from his regular high wheelie stunts. His stock road tyres are also knackered, ripped of to the edge resulting to high speed cornering, and stock rear-sets are scuffed, this boy is also a hooligan on the streets I reckon.

He is such a nice guy, every time I visit him, I make sure I learned something from the guru. Never did I hesitate to ask a few sacred racing skills from the master, may be mechanical or riding techniques. Well, humble that he is, he did bestowed me loads of racing secrets; weirdly enough his method of teaching is very unorthodox.

He never taught me much about racing lines and overtaking maneuvers, but rather, he kept on teaching me about mindset, training, kung-fu mentality, state of altered consciousness, determination, attitude and endurance. He taught me that everything is in the mind. Nobody teaches Maico how to ride.

Very polite boy indeed he supports me at my SK and Yamaha GP races; me — a regular mid pack club racer, being visited by the champ. He is very respectful to fellow bikers and calls me "kuya Darwin" all the time. He is very religuous in his training antics, running, bicycle training, boxing and more cardio. I have been with him in occasional birthday parties and he never liked too much drinking, let alone smoking.

To some who do not know yet, Maico is a very good graphic designer, he has the talent in vector arts using Illustrator and Core,l as well as skills in Photoshop, After Effects, Adobe Premiere, C++, CSS and Java, i have seen some of his works and he is passionate about it. In fact he designs all of his logos and the entire YRS print materials, including the website. Plus, he has also appeared on several TV shows and commercials.

Maico is also an established stock broker. He is indeed a very well versed businessman at the age of 22. He tells me about expanding his YRS business, building a graphic arts firm and become a business tycoon by the time his racing career ends.

However it seems like Maico really belongs to motorcycle racing. Like Rossi, Maico has several rituals on a race-day, he sits in this fold-able armchair with an oxygen re-breather on his nose. He puts himself into an altered state of consciousness so that deep focus can be achieved that he may always ride in the zone.

His parents are pretty strict in his sporting environment, but of course he is always thankful for that. It is also said that no girlfriends are allowed during racedays to prevent mood changes they may cause distraction. Though sometimes I have seen his long-time love Sulgi during some races, she seems to support the man with so much enthusiasm.

Since his loss, I would try to think of any other modern Filipino boy that a proper modern Filipina woman would deserve to keep. I cannot think of anyone but Maico. He is fully loaded, he works extremely hard, he is athletic, he is gwapo, he is very humble and accommodating, he respects women, he is Godly, and he has dreams. Other men lack most of these qualities while Maico had it all. He has fulfilled his destiny, he has written motorcycle history, he has shown what Filipinos are capable of, and he has utterly embraced his dreams. He is definitely a hero who will never be forgotten in the decades to come.

Then there is controversy - and there was plenty of it, and this time, it was real, not artificially stirred up by the media -- it engages us more to talk about the race. For there was a lot of interesting data that got buried under the drama, which may prove key for the rest of the racing season. Let us never stop racing, banning of the sport is pure cruelty. Let us justify his death, keep on racing, chasing the dream and raise the bar of riding safety, let the tracks be safer to kids who want to be future Maicos.

There are lessons learned from this tragic incident, but we should understand that all the talk about this weekend is about how he lived his life to the fullest. There will be a bit of tiny 129's in every racer and everyone involved in the sport. All we can think about Maico Greg Buncio now is purely admiration.

by Darwin McDeezy Zialcita

Maico Buncio has changed the face of the sport. He has written history in Philippine motorcycle racing. You will be missed.