Sport Yacht racing

Where stars are born

Written by Ben Blaschke

Having attracted some of the biggest names in motor racing over the course of the past 35 years, the Macau Grand Prix remains a vitally important breeding ground for the sport’s generation next.

The next generation of motor racing drivers will be on show in Macau when the 64th Macau Grand Prix gets underway from 16 to 19 November.

This year represents the 35th occasion that the headline race, the Suncity Group Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix, has been run under Formula 3 rules and in that time some of the biggest names in motorsport history have graced the streets of the famous Guia Circuit.

It was 1983 when the decision was made to adopt Formula 3 as Macau’s premier category, with none other than the great Ayrton Senna taking the chequered flag ahead of a field that also boasted the likes of Gerhard Berger, Martin Brundle and Roberto Guerrero. Senna’s legendary Formula 1 career would see him win 41 races and three World Championships before his tragic death in 1994.

Since then, the list of Macau Grand Prix winners has included seven-time Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher, his brother Ralf Schumacher and other F1 luminaries David Brabham and Takuma Sato. The likes of current Ferrari driver and four-time F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel, Damon Hill, Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg, Mark Webber, Alan Jones and Mika Häkkinen have also raced along these streets.

Ironically, Michael Schumacher’s win over Häkkinen in 1990 is part of Macau Grand Prix folklore. Four years before claiming the first of his seven F1 World Championships, Schumacher was embroiled in an epic battle with Häkkinen in Macau which saw him leading the Finn in the second of two races but needing to finish more than three seconds ahead in order to win on aggregate time.

Häkkinen was easily keeping pace but with just a few laps remaining the two cars collided as he tried to pass Schumacher down the straight. Häkkinen careened into the barrier, allowing Schumacher to limp to victory and sparking debate ever since as to who was to blame!

If ever there was any doubt as to the pathway Macau provides for the world’s best up and coming drivers, you only need to look back four years. In 2013, the same year the Macau Grand Prix celebrated its 60th anniversary, the 22 drivers taking part in the Formula 1 World Championship included 15 who had previously raced in Macau!

As for the recent history of the Macau Grand Prix, the famous race has been all about two men – Sweden’s Felix Rosenqvist and Portugal’s António Félix da Costa.

Rosenqvist, driving for the historic Theodore Racing Team – the team Senna led to victory back in 1983 – won back-to-back races in 2014 and 2015 before falling agonizingly short of the three-peat with a second-place finish last year. The man who beat him in 2016, da Costa, also prevailed in 2012 and has since signed on to represent Andretti Autosport – owned by Indycar legend Michael Andretti – in the recently created FIA Formula E Championship.

This year’s Macau Grand Prix will showcase three main international races, including the headline event which has once again been designated as the official FIA F3 World Cup. The SJM Macau GT Cup has also been designated as the FIA GT World Cup for the third consecutive year, while the Suncity Group Macau Guia Race will count as a round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC).

But the big question remains – which driver will take the chequered flag and mark their name as a superstar of the future?