Under starter's orders

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


No other sporting event better represents the high-octane boom of southern China than the Macau Grand Prix. Noisy, fast and unashamedly brash, the three-day scream of car and bike races in mid-November is a high-revving orgy of hedonism and adrenaline on one of the most compact and unpredictable street circuits in the world.

The event has offered thrills, spills and too many tragedies since its inception in 1954. And, while F?d?ration Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) track safety standards have improved vastly over the years, the competitors and marshalls know the 6.2-km Guia Circuit has its quirks.

The kiss of car tyres and bumpers often causes cars to spin out of control on Moorish Hill, Reservoir Bend and Fisherman's Exit, while pile-ups are common on the notorious Lisboa Bend.

This 58th Macau Grand Prix promises to be a fascinating spectacle from November 17 to 20. The Macau Grand Prix for cars is the prime event and part of an international Formula 3 circuit that has become a stepping-stone to Formula 1 and greatness for track legends such as Ayrton Senna, who won in 1983. And who could forget the last-lap, 1990 collision between the favourite Mika Hakkinen and the ultimate triumph of 'dark horse' Michael Schumacher?

This year's two, 15-lap races are the final rounds of the inaugural FIA F3 International Trophy series, which has already been won by 20-year-old Spaniard Roberto Merhi in the Prema Power team's Mercedes HWAs.

There could be needle in the two, nine-lap FIA World Touring Car Championship events for racers under two litres.

With events at Suzuka, Japan on October 21 to 23, Guangdong (November 4 to 6) and Macau ahead, a three-cornered contest looms between Frenchman Yvan Muller, on 333 points, Britain's three-time Macau winner Robert Huff (317) and Switzerland's Alain Menu (253), who won in 2007. With 25 points for a win and two races per meeting, the title could be decided in Macau, and on the 40th anniversary of the Guia Race.

Hong Kong fans will root for Marchy Lee Ying-kin in DeTeam KK Motorsport's BMW 320 TC and Darryl O'Young in Bamboo Engineering's Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T.

The 15-lap City of Dreams Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix for 1,000cc bikes is arguably the most exciting event of the weekend.

It is best watched on television with driver's-view cameras showing high-speed Ducati, Kawasaki, Honda and BMWs negotiating the track's bends at hair-raising speeds and angles.

Bike fans will hope there is another duel between last year's winner, Scot Stuart Easton, and six-time Macau champion John McGuinness, fellow Briton Michael Rutter and New Zealand road-race ace Bruce Anstey.

Macau enthusiasts will cheer the interport rivalry with Hong Kong's racers in Saturday's 10-lap Hotel Fortuna Interport Race for zippy Hondas, the CTM Macau Touring Car Cup and Sunday's 12-lap Star River-Windsor Arch Macau GT Cup. The grandstand is the place to be seen but the Lisboa and Reservoir stands offer good views of sprints and crashes, and all are HK$50 on the Thursday and Friday practice days.

Ticket prices rise to HK$450, HK$800 and HK$250 on the Saturday and cost an extra HK$100 on the Sunday.

Buy tickets at least a month in advance and reserve ferry fares to avoid being stranded overnight in Macau.

Tickets are available via www.macauticket.com.