Sport Cover features Motor sport

The Macau grand prix: 57 years old and stronger every year

Pai Yao
Written by Pai Yao

This article first appeared in the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of World Gaming magazine.

While the world identifies Macau with its world-class casinos, the Macau Grand Prix has been adding to the city’s international acclaim for years. The World Gaming team set out to discover why fast cars going around a track ranks so highly to so many people.

So what is it about boys and their toys? Quite simply, men love things that make noise and go fast. The smell of petrol and burning rubber, glamorous grid girls and cold beer will make many a good man drool with excitement. The Macau Grand Prix may not be Formula 1 or IndyCar but don’t let that fool you about the importance of this event. Street circuits have something special, which purpose-built courses can never offer. The Macau Grand Prix is to Formula 3 what the Monaco Grand Prix is to Formula 1. This is the race that everyone is watching and success here can catapult you straight to the top of the profession.

Not many know that the race has been running since 1954. It has seen many changes over the years. Arguably, it really hit its stride when it became a professional race in 1966. Once French manufacturer Renault took interest in the race other top manufacturers and racing teams realised Macau was the perfect place to build a racing presence in this part of the world. In 1967 it was decided that a motorcycle race would also be introduced to the schedule and the official Macau format was created.

You would be wrong to think the race doesn’t have global importance because the top drivers from the F1 and IndyCar racing are not involved. But you may just be surprised at some of the big names that have kick-started their careers on the streets of Macau. The late Ayrton Senna, arguably the greatest driver the world has ever seen, flew around the course to claim victory in 1983. Little did anyone know that the young Brazilian would go on to become one of motor sport’s most recognizable champions and one of his country’s most treasured sporting icons.

1990 is considered to have been the most thrilling Macau Grand Prix yet. Michael Schumacher and Mika Häkkinen were neck and neck leading the race into the final lap. At the main straight, just after the bend at the old Mandarin Oriental (now the Grand Lapa), Häkkinen controversially hit the back of the German’s car after a strange braking incident. The flying Finn crashed out of the race as Schumacher nursed his damaged car to one of the most famous and controversial victories of the sport. The future would hold many more classic struggles between the two and for the German, it led on to multiple Drivers Championships and Formula 1 immortality.

Macau’s Guia circuit winds its way through the city’s narrow streets for 6.2 kilometres or 3.8 miles if you prefer. The feature race is run over 15 laps with a race length of just under 100 kilometres (57 miles). The Formula 3 cars reach speeds of up to 260km/h (160 mph) down the straight. This is not a track for the faint hearted. It’s famous for its many sharp turns and tight crash barriers that make extreme physical and mental demands on the drivers. Safety has become a huge issue for the industry over the years as drivers continue to push harder and harder. Macau is proud of its safety record there have still been racers who have never walked away from their cars.

Each year, the Macau Grand Prix is held on the second or third weekend of November and, like most motor sports festivals, runs over four days. This year’s 2010 Macau Grand Prix, the 57th running of the event, will be held from November 18 to 21. Over 250 racers and riders from all over the world are expected to attend the only street circuit race meeting in the world where bikes and cars run over the same circuit. The climax of the weekend will be the Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix feature event that will start at on Sunday afternoon. There is a full list of support events including touring cars and other races where local drivers throughout the region can compete on this internationally renowned course.

If you make it to the Grand Prix then you’ll have an experience like no other. The whole city becomes infected by Grand Prix fever as streets are closed and barricades erected. It’s a nightmare to move around the city but its worth the effort especially as it is only for a week. For those visiting for the first time the most noticeable thing will be the noise. These cars make the air tremble and the piercing roar of high octane engines will rock your body from head to toe. Don’t expect to get too much rest when the cars sit in the garages at night because the legendary party atmosphere of Macau reaches a new level of excitement as partygoers throng to the bars and nightclubs for Grand Prix themed nightlife. The only thing that you will have to worry about will be fitting everything in and remembering to occasionally eat and sleep.

It is important that Macau has events like the Grand Prix. Most visitors come to Macau for the casinos and associated entertainment, so it is good for Macau to have other events for which it is internationally recognised. This is a world-class event and one that attracts the best young Asian and European drivers into China. This is a race that gets recognised by the top manufacturing talent scouts looking for next Schumacher or Senna. It also generates great income for the city and the businesses that operate here. The 57th Macau Grand Prix aims to offer direct employment to nearly 2,000 local workers.

This is one of the busiest weekends in Macau every year. If you want to go to the race then get in early and book your accommodation right away as you’ll want somewhere quiet to rest your head at the end of the day. We also recommend that you pre-purchase tickets for the races. You can find more information at www.macauticket.com.

You will be able to find information at the official website www.macau.grandprix.gov.mo. If you can’t make it over this year make sure you put it in your diary for 2011.

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