A decade’s worth of racing. A lifetime’s worth of wisdom. 18-year-old Iñigo Anton tells The GAME about his journey.
The motorsports world in the Philippines is relatively small. For the most part, the people within the community are familiar with one another.
And they definitely know the name Iñigo Anton.
People in the racing world may have learned of Iñigo in different ways. Some may see him as the son of two champion racers. Some may consider him the poster boy or prodigy of Filipino racing. And others may simply view him as the 18-year-old racing phenom.
No matter how they regard him, one thing remains common: his name rings that of success.
But what most people don’t realize is that although he grew up on the race tracks, was born to two racing aficionados, and started winning races before he could even drive on the roads of Manila, his parents did not want him to race at all.
“In the house, they would remove all their trophies or anything about cars to try and stop me from getting into it,” 18-year-old Iñigo recalls.
But no amount of hidden trophies could stop Iñigo Anton from pursuing a career in racing himself.
And so it happened. Iñigo Anton would go on to become one of the Philippines’ most decorated racing drivers.
At 11, he became the youngest professional driver in the country. Two years later, he won the Front Wheel Slalom Championship, becoming the youngest-ever driver to do so. And by the time he was 15, he won the Philippine Autocross Championship Series — a triumph he achieved by defeating his own father, Carlos Anton.
However, these major milestones only scratch the surface of what the young gun has already accomplished. And at 18 years old and a decade behind the wheel, there are definitely still more trophies to be won.
Taking the wheel
When Iñigo was just seven years old, he was already learning how to drive automatic cars. His first feel of the pedals was his mom’s automatic BMW, and soon after, he developed his love for driving, especially with his dad teaching him the ropes in the Clark County Speedway.
A year later, he drove his way to his first competition.
The first step to his journey was time trials, and as the name suggests, drivers race against the clock and not against direct opponents on the track.
Over 100 racers were competing in Iñigo’s first time trial. The result of his first run at the track? He hardly made it to the top 99, but it wasn’t too surprising, as it was his very first time driving in a competitive setting.
But, as the old adage goes, first impressions can be deceiving.
By the time Iñigo got his second chance to prove himself — having gathered impressions from his first go — he managed to take a post as third place on the platform.
His speed was undeniable, even as a mere eight-year-old. And in those first two years of driving cars, he was able to focus on the fundamentals of the sport. But it was when he made the jump to go-karting that he really started to develop his technical abilities.
Taking on the track, one corner at a time
“When I started karting, I thought that because I already drive cars, it was going to be a walk in the park for me,” he admits. “But when I got there, I didn’t even win my first race, and I cried my heart out because I realized that it’s going to be really difficult and challenging.”
When he crossed the line into more competitive racing, as a young boy, he understandably felt overwhelmed.
“There was really a learning curve I had to learn. In that first race, I was just so scared to tap and bump people, but it was just something new to me and something that I really had to overcome,” he shares.
Putting his mind to it, he climbed the racing ladder step by step, and karting proved to be fundamental to his development.
With karting, he shares, “With a slower speed, time slows down, and you can focus on getting your braking points correct, trying to turn in the exact moment, and trying to make a pass — it’s not as scary. So at least you can learn what it’s like to race against other people.”
But even when he eventually transitioned back into racecars, he discovered that despite his knowledge and experience, there was so much out there to learn. And to his surprise, one of the most valuable tools he found was something he would simply do for fun as a kid — video games.
Seizing every opportunity
While the onset of the pandemic might have slowed down athletes in other sports, racers had the huge benefit of the rise of virtual racing.
“Virtual racing is one of the biggest things that happened to motorsports in the last two years,” he told us. “You learn techniques of real-life racing, and the nice thing about it is that you don’t have to risk anything while you’re in the video game. If anything happens, I can just press the reset button and go again.”
With this, Iñigo seized the opportunity to try moves and techniques he was too scared to try on the track. Having been known and told that he was not as aggressive of a driver, the youngster capitalized on the simulation that would not cost him his safety.
And virtual racing was not only a space to train. For Iñigo, it was also a platform to boost his confidence and improve on his weaknesses.
In January 2022, Iñigo entered the 24 Hours of Le Mans virtual championship as part of the only Southeast Asian team. Le Mans is one of the most well-renowned racing events in the world — two-time Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen even joined the virtual race himself, among the other highly successful international champions.
“It really propelled me into competing better, especially after the pandemic, and I would say if I didn’t do sim racing, I probably would have not won the championships I’ve had.”
As with any athlete or individual who works on their weaker skills, they end up competing with fewer errors. Iñigo and his team finished top four in the world, even besting the F1 champ.
Virtual racing truly provided an outlet for Iñigo Anton to meet and socialize with other racers globally, something he is truly grateful for. And on top of that, it also gave him the platform to develop as a racer, not just in the simulated space, but on the real race track as well.
Bringing home the gold
2022 was a banner year for the young Filipino driver, as he won all the top classes of the racing series he entered.
Last year, he was the Yokohama Philippine GT Driver of the Year and was crowned overall champion of the Radical Challenge Philippines and the ERGP Global Edition for virtual racing.
To add to this, he likewise overcame a pressuring final race to become the Overall Champion of the Vios Cup 2022, one of the most popular racing events in the Philippines.
These are just a few of the trophies he brought home last year, as he was joining every competition he could. In fact, Iñigo would spend some weekends competing in two different championships. It was a hectic year, but he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
At the end of the year, he was named the Fastest Driver in the Philippines.
With everything that he has won, it would be easy to take credit for it. After all, in the world of racing, wins and championships are more heavily credited to the racer in the seat.
But to Iñigo Anton, no man, not even a racecar driver, is an island. He always mentions and commends his team and the different individuals who have helped him lift and line the trophies after every race.
Fueling his passion
Already a champion racer, who has even defeated his own father in a race, Iñigo still opens himself up to all the lessons he can possibly learn — and this humility that he shows as an athlete is a value that his parents instilled in him from a young age.
“I know there are a lot of talented people, even better than me in racing, or talented mechanics and coaches that know what I’m doing wrong and can do better, so I just have to humble myself,” he says.
Iñigo Anton is the son of two talented athletes. His father, Carlos Anton is a highly decorated racer in the Philippines, and his mother, Karen Navarrete-Anton is an international champion.
“It’s really nice that we share a common bond. Not many families also have the same interests so us being all connected to racing — I’m just really grateful for that.”
And even though his parents may not have wanted him to dabble in the racing world in the beginning, they are incredibly supportive of their son’s journey. He shares that through the years, they have instilled within him important values such as humility, dedication, and discipline.
On top of this, they also remain grounding figures for him as a racer, even despite the pressures he may feel.
“It’s something I had to live up to, but my parents always told me to not get discouraged and feel nervous to try and keep our family name up,” he recalls.
With two foundational and supportive figures rooting for him and helping him behind the scenes, Iñigo has been able to take these lessons and make them his own whenever he gets into the driver’s seat.
Accepting the chaos
Every time a race car driver is about to compete, he gets into the car by himself.
So even while Iñigo Anton has had mentors in his parents, other drivers, coaches, and mechanics, as soon as he gets into the car, he takes control of the race with every steer, brake, and turn.
It’s a lot of pressure to handle. Because even though a driver sits alone in the car, wins and losses don’t only amount to the racer behind the wheel. Iñigo acknowledges the pressure that comes with being a professional racer.
“When I was starting racing, I just thought, I just want to do this for myself and it was just to make myself better at racing. But when things get more serious, you have teams, you have sponsors, and it gets pressuring to live up to their expectations that they want you to achieve,” he explains.
But in the last race of the recent Vios Cup season, which he regards as his most memorable race, even in the face of incredible pressure and stress, he found a way to keep his nerves in check.
Iñigo came into the race starting second, and he knew that whoever won the race would go on to win the championship. “I was thinking, how am I going to do this?” he shares.
And as the race was delayed by up to four hours due to weather conditions, the pressure started to build.
“Coming into it, for three hours, I was just thinking about all the scenarios that could happen and it was really wearing down on me,” he recalls. “But I realized, 30 or 50 minutes before the race, don’t think about anything, just think of it like you’re going for a drive out there. There’s no championship on the line.”
When the race was finally about to start, Iñigo said a prayer, reminded himself to be safe, and told himself to enjoy — the three parts of his pre-race ritual — and got in the car.
“I like talking to myself inside my head,” Iñigo shared, telling us about his racing habits. “I tell myself, ‘Okay Iñigo you’re going to do this, in this corner, you’re going to brake here — just giving myself little reminders.”
In the car, it was all him. He crossed the line first, winning the race, and he emerged the overall champion. And in the end, it became all about what he loved doing the most: racing.
When his passion for the sport shined through amidst all the chaos and unpredictability of the race, it all came together for Iñigo.
Wisdom beyond his years
With his years of experience, all the wisdom and values he carries as a professional athlete, and the platform he now stands on as a champion, it’s hard to believe that Iñigo Anton is just an 18-year-old.
“I would say I’d be like such a professional athlete, but in reality, I’m not. I’m just 18,” he reminds us. “I just like doing things that kids love to do.”
But even though he still enjoys watching TV shows, playing video games, or staying up until 3:00 in the morning, he always keeps his goals and passions within view. And on top of racing in multiple championships at a time, he remains a consistent honor student and dean’s lister in school.
“Like any other racer, of course, I want to reach Formula 1,” he tells us. “But my parents tell me to just always stay in the present. Yes, it’s good to have a goal, but sometimes, just focusing on what you have right now is the more important thing.”
With a bulk of the racers all over the world vying for one of the 20 seats in Formula 1, Iñigo admits, “I know it’s an unrealistic dream to have right now. But I can move on to other things.”
Citing the World Endurance Challenge, GP3 racing, or touring cars, Iñigo Anton knows that the world of motorsports that he holds so closely is not only defined by one category. “There are many kinds of disciplines in the world,” he acknowledges.
“It’s just about living in the moment, doing what I have to do, and if there are opportunities that come, I’ll take them.”
What is true in racing is also true in life.
When a racer is in the car, driving at incredible speeds, there is no time to dwell on their mistake in the previous lap, nor the time to focus on the following lap. All there is for a driver is the road in sight up ahead.
And this is something that Iñigo embodies, both on and off the track.
As he did when he was first starting to drive, first getting into time trials, and first learning the fundamentals of racing, even now as an 18-year-old, Iñigo understands the importance of taking his career one step at a time.
For any athlete, it’s easy to dream of the checkered flag. But sometimes, the hardest part is just making it to the starting line.
“I’m lucky that I already knew what I wanted when I was young,” Iñigo says.
The racing champion’s starting line came a decade ago. But not speeding through a sprint and in it for the long haul, Iñigo Anton will continue to forge towards his goals, simply taking it one lap at a time.
Text ANNIKA CANIZA
Photography KIERAN PUNAY of KLIQ, Inc.
Art Direction MARC YELLOW
Grooming CATS DEL ROSARIO
Sittings Editor AMANDA FERNANDEZ and JAMES CRUZ
Shoot Coordination ANTHONY MENDOZA and MJ ALMERO
Shot on Location KARRERA SHOWROOM