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 here back then.
Dodjie Laurel perished in a flaming death in 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 instead of heading for the teeming crowd at the tourism-oriented race.
Because of his heroic feat, Dodjie earned a place of honor at the Macau Grand Prix Museum.
A young corporate lawyer and younger brother of the late 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 death.
Back then, he owned several business firms, was president of the prestigious Cam Wreckers Association, and founder and owner of the country’s pioneering Batangas Racing Circuit.
Dodjie invited me and my longtime friend Gus Villanueva to watch that year’s Macau Grand Prix. With us in that historic trip to Macau were some of the country’s motorsports’ luminaries at that time, including Paco Ventura, Baby Luna, Joe Cacho, Eddie Gomez, father of movie actor Richard; Ramon Rodriguez, Dodo Ayuyao and Billy Martinez.
Former Philippine Motoring Association executive director Johnny Angeles provided us with valuable materials.
When Dodjie organized the pioneer “Concourse d’ Elegance” Auto Show, he sought the help of media friends and that of my late colleague, the award-winning Joe Burgos.
A silent but effective election worker, Dodjie had just finished campaigning for brother Doy at the time of his death.
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Among the photographs on display at the Grand Prix Museum, which opened in November 1993 and located at the Tourist Activities Center in the Outer Harbour area of the city, are the life-sized photos of Dodjie Laurel and his Lotus car and of the popular Macau racer Teddy Yip, who first drove in 1956 at the Guia Circuit in 1956 at the wheel of a Jaguar XK 120.
A Lotus 22, owned by Yip and driven by Macanese K.N. Suen emerged winner in 1967, 1968 and 1971. Suen withdrew halfway through the 1967 race, which was eventually restarted, as a sign of respect for Dodjie following his fiery death.