Macau, China - Team San Miguel Beer-Philippines' Jody Coseteng fought tooth and nail to claim 10th place in the SJM Guia event of the 51st Macau Grand Prix held here Sunday and make his mark in his debut appearance in Asia's premiere motorsport event. The seven-time Philippine touring car champion who drove a works BMW 320i prepared by the prolific Team Engstler from Germany survived the arduous trek to the final checkered flag that clipped the original 37-car starting line-up into half at day's end.
Watson's BMW Team Germany's Jorg Muller, the Macau GP F3 champion in 1993 made history by becoming the first man to win the overall titles in the two premiere categories of the annual motorfest. Muller outraced his Watson's teammate and reigning European Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx to the checkered flag in the two races. Swede Rickard Rydell took a stranglehold of the final podium spot by coming in third twice in his Seat Toledo Cupra.
"The exposure and experience that I gained competing against the world's top touring car drivers will serve me well in the future," said Coseteng whose Macau GP campaign was sponsored by the Philippines' world renowned San Miguel Beer. "I thank San Miguel Corporation for the support they gave me in this very tough race," he added.
Coseteng, who struggled in the practice and qualifying sessions, finally got his rhythm going on race day. Starting out on P22, Coseteng went down to business when the red lights went off. Methodically, he steered car number 12 which bore the San Miguel Beer logo and the Philippine tricolor, past several cars in front of him and clear of the hazards strewn along different sections of the treacherous 6.12-kilometer Guia circuit by the early race casualties. Coseteng finished the race in 15th place.
The pumped-up Coseteng threw all caution to the wind when the second race began and spurted from P15 to 9th place in the opening laps. He also had his moments against the best of the lot in mid-race when he temporarily held his ground against the rampaging Dutchman Duncan Huissman who was staging a furious rally after starting out from the back of the pack. The final race was marked by a number of crashes. Consequently, the safety car was called in on several occasions making the Filipino lose his momentum and a few positions resulting to his 12th place windup.
His two-race aggregate was good for 10th place in the final overall tally and third best among the Asian drivers. Coseteng's teammates at Team Engstler San Miguel Beer-Caltex, Franz Engstler and Thai driver Ratakul Prutirat were not as lucky and were not classified in the two Guia races. With his output, Coseteng joined the short list of Filipinos who managed to make it to the top 10 in the Macau GP. Ahead of this roster is the late Dodjie Laurel whose legendary driving skills gave him back-to-back titles in the Macau GP Formula Libre category in 1962 and 1963.
The Macau SJM Guia race will officially become a part of the 2005 World Touring Car Championship series promising more excitement and greater interest in the touring car races in this part of the globe in the coming years. The Macau Grand Prix draws over a hundred thousand spectators yearly and has been Asia's biggest motorsports event for the past 50 years. The event is covered by hundreds of media members and journalists and is telecast to over 4 billion households worldwide by the ESPN & STAR TV Cable Networks.