January 01, 2011 By Kevin C. Limjoco

2011 Pocholo Ramirez Lifetime Achievement Award – José André B. Ramirez

A Reflection Of Greatness

A tribute to Kookie Ramirez by Kevin C. Limjoco, C! Magazine President and Founding Editor

Right at the very beginning of the development of C! Magazine, back in the summer of 2001, we knew that if we were going to invest our time and our money into our passion, that we had to build the finest and most experienced editorial team possible. I may have had hundreds of thousands of kilometers of road experience but no more than 100 kilometers of track seat time. We also knew that having consistent instrumented testing results were vital to our magazine and our mantra. We already had a young racecar driver, Angelo Barretto, on board and veteran motorhead/racer, Matthew Marsh, out of Hong Kong committing to our cause, but there was still a key senior member missing to tie both motorsports and instrumented testing together.

Now let’s go back just a couple of months earlier before the C! logo was even created, the Car Shack Miata race team, which I was a member of, had built the most successful Mazda Miata in its day, driven by my cousin, Miguel Bichara (who later switched back to motorcycles and became a champion superbike rider too). It was on our last race in the original Subic Racetrack that I met Kookie’s wife, Menchie, who had already made a name for herself as the fastest woman/mother on the track racing saloons. I hadn’t met Kookie yet but knew his younger brother, Georges, fairly well and of course, their father, the legendary Tito Poch. Kookie was real busy managing the track as well as his and his brother’s races, not counting his wife either so I never got to even meet him then!

Fast-forward to where we left off, we began doing our comprehensive testing on the Subic track with the kind permission of Tito Poch who tasked Kookie to assist us in our very first gauntlet of testing, our first 1.6-liter comparo and aggressive testing on my tuned Audi A4 Turbo Quattro. We were so manic at the time that I didn’t notice that Kookie was doing well more than just observing us and making sure we adhered to his strict track safety rules. He started physically helping us with our testing, driving every car as well as being an authoritative control factor for our benchmarks and honing our procedures. I was so grateful that we had Kookie helping us out on that very hot day. But he wasn’t part of the core yet, except for the owners, myself, Carl Cunanan, and Kenneth Quintal, our only true employee at the time was good old James Deakin, who signed on in blood just a couple of weeks before. I thought we could never afford Kookie and I was even embarrassed to even suggest having him full-time at our motley start-up magazine with no publishing experience despite the gasoline flowing through our veins. For the next couple of months, I would go to the track to cover as many motorsport events as possible, from Kookie’s Run What You Brung to the Asian Festival of Speed.

It was actually my sister-in-law Marisol Ramirez, during one of our family get-togethers, who strongly suggested that I look into coercing her cousin Kookie into joining the magazine, sighting his writing experience as well as his racing experience, that he would be an asset and that she reckoned that he would love to do it. I braved the chance and we are all forever blessed that he agreed to join the team, our second full-time employee. The rest is literally history, for the next 10 years Kookie was our rock, our most dependable and most respected man on the team. He was always on time, always accomplished every task with the same swift and smooth accuracy as he did on the circuit. He inspired me to extract the most of every car with smoothness and grace, and in doing so always got better results. Forever a gentleman, Kookie was always so generous to share his experience, thoughts, and feelings. So generous in fact that on my very first full-on endurance race where C! took 1st and 2nd place in the Rookie Class on tandem TRS Ford Lynx’s, I used his racing suit! There was a time that Kookie was on the heavy side and still had that spare suit, which I needed to qualify.

I still rue that fateful afternoon in Germany, just as I was about to wrap up yet another fantastic trip testing BMW’s finest, when James called me with the stiff tone that he has only used once, and asked me to pull off the road because he had the tragic news that Kookie had just gotten the grim results of his routine check-up. I remember weeping uncontrollably in the car when I put the phone down and sat there remembering all the incredible experiences that we had shared and all the hilarious stories of James and Tito Hermoso with him. I used to call Tito and Kookie “Los Viejos”, my term of endearment for them as the “grumpy old men” would often argue/debate in the office then jump into the same car at the end of the day as they carpooled.

I remember his driving tips when I need it most, in his actual voice, “smoother coño!” I will forever be indebted to Kookie for being the crucial cog that made the C! Team what it is today and what it will be tomorrow. I will always love and miss him. My heart goes out to his whole family. It has been an honor to work with him and a privilege to be his friend. I have so many fond memories to help me cope with the loss and I want to share just one more with you.

A few years ago, when we still had our C! Fastfleet Chrysler PT Cruiser, it was a late night drive back from yet another long day of working on the Subic track. I was pretty spent so I asked Kookie if he would mind driving James and I back to Manila. Without thinking, I jumped in the back strapped myself in and was fast asleep in less than 5 minutes. James rode shotgun to keep Kookie entertained or distracted, you never know with our lovable James! After an hour of a steady yet swift pace, I woke up to a sudden tug from the seatbelt as Kookie had slowed down quickly enough to gently nudge a raging stray dog the size of a calf that unsuccessfully had played chicken with him, aside! Kookie then turns to me as James also looks at me wide-eyed and mouth agape, and says, “relax coño, I just pushed it away!” And he was right, except for James’ nail marks on the dashboard and the wet spot he left on the passenger seat there was absolutely no damage to the car’s front end! Godspeed Kooks! Muchas Muchas Muchas Gracias, te amo mi amigo, via con Dios!

 

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