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Most unlikely person to be spotted in the paddock in the Macau Grand Prix weekend? Celebrity crimper Kim Robinson. Yes, he who charges US$1,000 a time for a haircut – while telling us it makes sense on a dollar-cost averaging basis because he's so good you go less often and therefore it makes financial sense.
Friday's normally high testosterone level at the Macau trackside was elevated still further by the arrival of Robinson in the Gulf Marine hospitality tent, with two leggy lovelies who needed to be primped for a publicity photo shoot with the drivers.
It was a bit of a busman's holiday for Robinson, who himself this year is on the invite list as a first-time sponsor at the event, with his name plastered all over one of the overseas Formula Three team cars. Job done and girls suitably spruced up, Robinson looked around at the assortment of models, grease monkeys, motor sport junkies and drivers and pronounced: "This place could really use some glamour."
Macau turns 59
Macau is more than a social event with some rich local guys who like to ram their expensive cars into the wall; it's very special to serious motor sport lovers. It draws all the top drivers from all the national championships together. Trevor Carlin, one of the biggest team owners in Formula Three once said that a driver could make up for a mediocre season with a dashing performance in Macau, because everybody’s watching.
Now in its 59th year, people love it because only the seriously rich can afford to be involved and you can spot Formula One's future stars. People like Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button or Damon Hill used it on their way to the top, and they all say it’s one of the world's most difficult tracks.
And it's full of thrills and spills, sadly with two fatalities so far this year already. As Richard Meins, who has raced in the Macau GT series for 10 years says or the street circuit's hairpin bens: “there’s no such thing as a small accident in Macau. There is nowhere to go if you make a mistake.” You only have to see the piles of twisted metal being carted away on tow trucks to realize that's very true. Andy Priaulx, three times world touring car championship winner, describes Macau as being “like a bobsleigh run, switchback and curves and to survive, you really have to get a rhythm, mentally and physically, from a driver’s perspective, to be on top of it.”
But knowing that legendary drivers like Ayrton Senna have driven the track adds a certain glamour and pizzazz to Macau's reputation, which has become, sadly, rather tawdry the rest of the year. As a competitor, it’s very expensive to compete, but Macau has proved if you can do well there, you're probably destined for great things. In 1990 the great Formula One rivalry between Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen began. Button only came second but Macau is where the champions of the future can be seen: Hamilton won the qualifying race but went on to Formula One, as did Nelson Piquet junior. This year, watch out for Tom Blomqvist, only 17 and first time in Macau, but a winner in Spa in July.