I VIVIDLY remember the late Arsenio “Dodjie” Laurel not only because he gave me the chance to embark on my first trip abroad but because of his obsession with motorsports, a virtually unknown sport back in the ’60s.
Dodjie Laurel died in a fiery crash at the Macau Grand Prix on Nov. 19, 1967 when he chose to swerve his Lotus racer into the seaside wall of Macau’s Guia Circuit than at the teeming crowd who usually watched the annual race, which is a tourism-oriented event.
Because of the heroic feat, Dodjie earned a place of honor at the Macau Grand Prix Museum.
A young corporate lawyer and a brother of former Philippine Vice President Salvador “Doy” Laurel, Dodjie was only 35 when he died. A true-blue motorsportsman, Dodjie was seeking a rare hat trick at the time of his untimely death.
Aside from owning several business firms, he served as president of the Cam Wreckers Association and was the founder and owner of the country’s pioneering Batangas Racing and Karting Circuit. Dodjie likewise organized the pioneer “Concourse d’ Elegance” Auto Show, requesting my help and that of my late colleague, the award-winning Joe Burgos, in the publicity for the event.
Dodjie invited me and my longtime friend and kumpadre Gus Villanueva to witness the staging of that fateful Macau Grand Prix. With us on that historic trip to Macau were some of motorsports’ luminaries at that time, including Paco Ventura, Baby Luna, Joe Cacho, Eddie Gomez, father of movie idol Richard; Ramon Rodriguez, Dodo Ayuyao and Billy Martinez.
Former Philippine Motoring Association executive director Johnny Angeles provided added support by giving us valuable materials needed in our coverage.
A silent but effective election worker, Dodjie had just finished campaigning for brother Doy at the time of his death.
A past issue of the Macau Government Tourist Office’s bimonthly newsletter featured the Grand Prix Museum which was opened in November 1993 and located in the Tourist Activities Center in the Outer Harbour area of the city.
Another article was on Teddy Yip, a longtime friend of Dodjie and many of his Filipino buddies.
“Yip is an entrepreneur who did a tremendous amount to promote motor racing and spread the name of Macau far and wide with his “Theodore Racing” team which counted with drivers such as Alan Jones and Ayrton Senna among its members. Teddy Yip was also one of the people responsible for introducing Formula 3 races to the Guia Circuit in 1983,” according to the article.
Among the photographs on display at the Museum are the life-sized photos of Dodjie Laurel and his Lotus car and Teddy Yip who first drove in 1956 at the Guia Circuit on the wheel of a Jaguar XK 120.
Eduardo Carvallo, driving a Triumph TR2, won the first Macau Grand Prix in 1954 while a Lotus 22, which was owned by Yip and driven by Macanese K. N. Suen emerged winner in 1967, 1968 and 1971. Suen withdrew halfway through the race in 1967 as a sign of respect for Dodjie following his fiery death.
This year’s Macau Grand Prix is set Nov. 15-18 also at the Guia Circuit.