Text: JP Carino / Photos: courtesy of Macau Grand Prix Committee | posted December 07, 2007 11:23
A look back through time
Originally conceived as a treasure hunt around the streets of Macau in 1954, the Macau Grand Prix has grown into one of the biggest motorsports events eagerly contested by the world's top professional and amateur racecar drivers. In 1966, Mauro Bianchi entered the race with a Renault racecar and effectively ended the amateur days of Macau and started its transition as one of the leading professional motorsports event in the racing calendar.
1983 saw the introduction of the Formula 3 machinery in Macau where the grand prix was won by racing legend Ayrton Senna for Thodore Racing. Here, he battled his good friend Gerhard Berger for the title before moving up to the Formula One ranks. Other notable winners of the GP are Michael Schumacher, Ralf Schumacher, David Coulthard, Ralph Firman, and Takuma Sato just to name a few. The GP became the "unofficial" world championships for Formula 3 as all top F3 drivers would converge here to battle it out and attract the attention of top Formula One talent scouts.
Our very own Dodjie Laurel won the grand prix back to back in 1962 and 1963, making him the first to score back to back wins. Unfortunately, on his third attempt for the title in 1967, he lost his life in an accident. This raised the issues of safety on the track, prompting organizers to make improvements. It was also in this same year where motorcycle races were first held in Macau.
Today, the Macau GP is a far cry from the race that what it used to be. However the street circuit racing event is the only one where both car and motorcycle races are held. It remains to be last true road circuit that remains unchanged from when it was first used more than fifty years ago. Touring car races are held for Hong Kong and Macanese residents with entries reaching up to forty at a time. The World Touring Car Championships visits Macau every November to stage the final round of the series. The ultra sleek racing machines of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia also play a supporting role in the Macau GP. As the years passed, the Motorcycle Grand Prix has built itself a reputation of its own and is also considered as a special event in the motorcycling world. As an added attraction, motorcycle racers would sometimes give piggy back rides around the track to lucky spectators whose names are drawn out randomly. The Motorcycle Grand Prix has featured many famous riders such as Kevin Schwantz, Carl Fogarty, Ron Haslam and Michael Rutter.
But at the end of the day, all eyes are glued on the Formula 3 racers as they try to be part of history before moving up to higher echelons of motorsports, hopefully Formula One. On notable side events in Macau would be supercar parades, championship race cars doing exhibition laps around the course. Ralph Firman drove a Jordan F1 car around the course in 2003. Vintage racecars from its glorious past would also parade the streets. This year, the A1 Grand Prix Team China did a demonstration together with a Toyota Supra Hybrid racecar driven by nobody else but Macau's golden boy in motor racing, Andre Couto. So mark the third week of November on your calendars if you want to experience a weekend of motorsports in the gambling Mecca of Asia.