Famous name a flashback to another time

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2007, 12:00am

It was too early. In the sliver of time between sunrise and drunken party-goers straggling home from an evening out, three Formula 3 cars made their way from Teddy Yip's private garage atop the hill at Teddy Yip bend and into the pits on the Macau Grand Prix circuit.

They crawled. After all, this wasn't the race, it wasn't qualifying and it wasn't practice; it was simply a method of transporting the cars from an evening of tinkering to their home for the day in the pits. The early wake-up call was due to the circuit closing to traffic at 6am, and as team owner and engineer Dick Bennetts (pictured) remembers, the instruction was clear: Don't crash.

They couldn't afford to damage Ayrton Senna's Formula 3 drive in a routine transport run.

It was 1983, the inaugural year of the F3 race at the Macau Grand Prix, and there were no proper garages. Bennetts, whose West Surrey Racing owned the car driven by Senna in the race's inaugural win, said he was lucky because Senna's car had been sponsored by Marlboro and Teddy Yip and so they were given access to Yip's private garage.

'It's still there,' Bennetts said of the garage. 'We drove by it in the taxi and I got the taxi to slow down and it still looks identical. I know exactly where it is and even on the computer game, there is Teddy Yip's garage.'

There is a hint of disbelief in Bennetts' voice when he thinks back 24 years when he engineered Senna's historic win. Since then, his team has given rides to Mika Hakkinen, Rubens Barichello and Pedro de la Rosa and after a 12-year hiatus from Macau, WSR has returned to run two cars in the World Touring Car Championships.

In 1983, Bennetts was nervous. It was not due to a street circuit that he had not previously seen (although that did present a formidable challenge), but it was because while the other drivers were walking the circuit, Senna was in the south of France testing a Formula 1 car. He arrived late on the Wednesday night, jet-lagged, and Bennetts was unsure what would happen. Senna won pole. He won the first race. He won the second.

Even then there was competition for Senna's talents. At the end of 1982, Senna came to WSR to drive a race, easily winning and setting the fastest lap. According to Bennetts, Senna was pleased and signed with them, despite other teams' efforts.

Senna's car was one of three cars sponsored by Marlboro and Yip and there was much discussion over whether his car or the two owned by Eddie Jordan would get the number one. Bennetts said he didn't care.

'Give me number three because we'll finish number one,' Bennetts said in the cocksure manner ubiquitous in racing. At the time, he meant it as a joke. It ended up the truth.

Senna's nephew Bruno has number three this year. Bennetts and the younger Senna met in Brand-Hatch during Senna's first Formula BMW race as that series was supporting the British Touring Car Championship, which Bennetts has been involved with since 1996.

'They based themselves in front of our garages,' Bennetts said. 'His mum was hanging on to my arm with her fingernails, digging into me every time he did a lap. I just said, don't worry you'll be OK.'