Text: JP Cariño / Photos: JP Cariño | posted December 21, 2009 00:00
Gabriele Tarquini - the oldest FIA world champion ever.
WORLD TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIPS
For the nth time Macau was to decide the driver and manufacturers championship of the World Touring Car Championship. After 22 rounds it all boils down to the last two rounds in Macau. SEAT teammates Gabrielle Tarquini and Yvan Muller against BMW driver Augusto Farfus. Qualifying was the most chaotic and dramatic session I have ever seen at the Guia circuit. The first red flag of the session was courtesy of James Thompson (LADA Sport) hitting the stationary BMW of Independents' driver Stefano D'Aste. The Lada driver hit the stationary car so violently that he had to be taken to the hospital and was later discharged wearing crutches. The next incident was between the two SEAT championship contenders; Muller and Tarquini, with the former hitting some cement dust on the esses and hitting the barriers hard before being hit by the latter who was on his hot lap. Muller and Tarquini had to be taken to the hospital and the session was red flagged again just before the sun was setting down on Macau. When qualifying resumed, the WTCC cars had to use their headlights as it was almost dark on the track and Rob Huff (Chevrolet) claimed pole position ahead of three time champion Andy Priaulx (BMW) and championship contender Augusto Farfus (BMW).
With the two championship contenders given the all clear sign and discharged from the hospital, it was time to go racing on Sunday. Rob Huff made the most out of his pole position as he put his head down and concentrated on creating a gap over the field. Andy Priaulx wasn't lucky during the start as he was tagged by Jordi Gene and sent into the wall thus ending his chances of helping BMW win the manufacturers crown. Ex Formula One driver Tiago Monteiro was in a solid second place position for majority of the race until he decided to play the team game, slowing down and allowing Gabrielle Tarquini to claim second. Yvan Muller would finish fourth thus giving Tarquini a six point lead heading into race two. Augusto Farfus dropped down to eight on purpose in order to start on pole for the reverse grid format of race two. This meant that BMW has an outside chance of winning the manufacturers crown if things fall into place on race two.
With a fifteen minute gap between races, the race teams were allowed to do some quick repairs and final set up adjustments before racing resumed. On pole now is Augusto Farfus followed by his BMW teammate Jorg Muller. With race two on a standing start format, the rear wheel drive BMW's immediately stretched their legs over the front wheel drive Chevrolet and Seat's. The BMW duo was in a perfect position to claim manufacturers honors if a SEAT failed to finish higher than fourth. But it was asking too much luck from the race gods who favored Gabrielle Tarquini most the whole weekend. He did what he had to do by running as close as to Yvan Muller before the safety car came out. Felix Porteiro lost the car on the exit of Fisherman's bend with Franz Engstler and local boy Andre Couto getting collected in the process. The track was littered with so much debris that race organizers to end the race prematurely thus awarding Gabrielle Tarquini and SEAT the titles. On the podium was Augusto Farfus followed by Jorg Muller and Yvan Muller. The independents crown was awarded to Tom Coronel, his second title in the WTCC.
Based on the past results, the TOM's powered cars are favored to win in Macau. Marcus Ericsson did a stunner of a lap in the final minutes of qualifying as he went to take pole in his TOM's powered Dallara ahead of Macau rookie Jean Karl Vernay who is driving for Signature-Volkswagen. Third on the grid is Finland's Valtteri Bottas (ART-Volkswagen).
In the first qualification race, Vernay had a better launch of the line compared to Marcus Ericsson handing him the lead on the run down to Lisboa. But it was short lived as Ericsson made a bold pass on him to regain P1 on the next lap. Two safety car incidents bunched up the grid and as soon as the green flag was waved Jean Karl Vernay made his move on Ericsson. He would hold on to the lead until the end, showing the race pace of the Signature-Volkswagen team with his Italian teammate Edoardo Mortara taking third spot.
In the Sunday final it was a battle between the Signature teammates as Jean Karl Vernay and Edoardo Mortara were showing that they were the class of the field. They immediately formed a big gap on the chasing pack. The two traded places almost every lap, even almost taking each other out on the run down to Lisboa. But on lap 11, Vernay missed a gear change at the Melco hairpin allowing Mortara to draft and make a final move down to Lisboa. He would take care of this lead and win the 56th Macau Grand Prix on his third attempt. The win gave Italy the chance to celebrate twice because Gabrielle Tarquini went to win the World Touring Car Championship on the same day. Mortara's victory also marks the first time a Volkswagen powered entry won the grand prix since Michael Schumachers' triumph back in 1990.
CTM MACAU TOURING CAR RACE
It was a Hong Kong 1-2 in the CTM Macau touring car race with Lo Ka Fai of 778 Motorsports taking the race win over Kenneth Look. Lo started the race in second place but fought hard with pole man Kenneth Ma. Kenneth Look made an impressive start from sixth and was up into second right away on the first lap. Enzo Pastor made a better getaway by starting ninth on the grid and was up to third by lap one. He fought for the final podium position against Macanese Eurico de Jesus till the end of the race.
Keita Sawa of Japan won the second running of the Macau GT Cup in his Lamborghini Gallardo ending four years of frustration of trying to win on the streets of Macau. Sawa grabbed the lead from Darryl O' Young of Hong Kong who was driving a Porsche GT3 cup car on the restart after an incident involving a Chevrolet Corvette. Macau regular Danny Watts took third in Porsche GT3 not after having a hard and long battle with Dilantha Malagamuwa of Sri Lanka.