Local race became an institution

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 September, 2011, 12:00am


The Macau Grand Prix began as a 15-car race for local revheads in 1954. The back end of the inaugural circuit was in parts no more than a dirt track, but Eddie Carvalho showed true grit to win in a Triumph TR, and the then-sleepy Portuguese enclave's car lovers vowed to turn their meeting into an annual event.

By the following summer, the cobblestones and sand on the Guia Circuit were covered in asphalt and in 1956 there was a spectator stand and 10 pits. Hong Kong and overseas drivers joined in and by 1963, Arsenio Laurel, the son of a Philippine president, had won twice in his Lotus 22-Ford. The joy turned to tragedy when Laurel became the Grand Prix's first fatality four years later, at the weekend of the inaugural 30-lap Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix. The Guia Circuit proved so good for bikes that the world's best road racers wheelied in, from greats such as Ron Haslam and Sadeo Asami, to Carl Fogarty, Kevin Schwantz and Michael Rutter.

In 1983, a young Brazilian driver, Ayrton Senna da Silva, won in the first Formula 3 Grand Prix and the event has been a proving ground for future Formula 1 stars ever since.

In 2003, the event was held over two weekends for the city's biggest celebration yet, the Macau Grand Prix Golden Jubilee Carnival, and two years later, Macau first hosted the final round of the newly-created FIA World Touring Car Championship.

The Macau Grand Prix Museum is worth a visit at 431 Rua Luis Gonzaga Gomes. It houses memorabilia and more than 20 historic racing cars, and bikes from the event, and two simulator machines can take you on virtual laps of the Guia track.