Get up to speed with the 63rd Macau Grand Prix

Gearing up for its 63rd year, the Macau Grand Prix has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a treasure hunt and shows no signs of slowing down

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 October, 2016, 12:25pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 October, 2016, 12:52pm

Every year in November, the focus in Macau shifts from the casino strip to the race track as the city welcomes back its biggest annual sporting event, the Macau Grand Prix.

In 2013, the event celebrated its 60-year Diamond Jubilee, and it continues to attract thousands of tourists and motor racing enthusiasts to Macau to watch the classic Guia Race and the Formula 3 Grand Prix.

Beyond the casinos: top 5 things to do in Macau

All the action takes place on the Guia Circuit, which winds its way around the hills of Macau and is regarded as one of the world’s greatest street racing courses. It is the stage for one of the leading international races for up-and-coming Formula 3 drivers – an important stepping stone for those aiming to reach the Formula One level, with past winners including top names such as David Coulthard, Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna and Takuma Sato.

“It is no accident that so many great names have raced at Macau early on in their careers,” says João Manuel Costa Antunes, coordinator of the Macau Grand Prix committee. “Only the very best junior single-seaters are selected to race here. If you look at the highest levels of international car competition – F1, Le Mans, DTM – the leading drivers have all raced at Macau.”

The event’s enduring success can be attributed to its variety. “Today, the Macau Grand Prix offers something for everyone to enjoy,” Antunes says. “For the avid motorsport fan, it is a chance to see the Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel or Daniel Ricciardo of tomorrow, as well as the world’s leading GT and touring car drivers, and courageous road-racing motorcyclists. For car aficionados, there is the technical brilliance of the Formula 3 single-seaters, and a grid full of the world’s finest sports cars. For those looking for excitement and glamour, there are celebrities, fast cars and plenty of intrigue.”

The Macau Grand Prix was originally intended to be a treasure hunt around the city when it was developed in the 1950s, according to Antunes. “Although I doubt [the organisers] had got as far as deciding what was to be hunted before it dawned upon them that the route they had drawn bore a striking resemblance to a race track, and the Macau Grand Prix was born.”

Over the following 60-plus years, the event has transformed from an amateur race into the popular Formula 3 spectacle it is today. In 1967, the motorcycle race was introduced, and 1972 saw the debut of the Guia Race for touring cars. 

By the early 1980s, organisers wanted to run a Formula Two race, but as they were unwilling to make any large circuit modifications, which included cutting down trees, they settled for Formula Three. A local businessman, Teddy Yip, was instrumental in the switch from Formula Pacific rules to Formula 3 rules. 

“Teddy was a driving force in elevating the event from a gathering of amateur racing enthusiasts to an internationally recognised and respected race meeting,” Antunes says. “His Theodore Racing Team was his pride and joy, and he brought both Ayrton Senna – winner of the first F3 Macau Grand Prix in 1983 – and Gerhard Berger.”

In addition, the Macau Grand Prix is the only major international street racing event which holds races for both cars and motorcycles.

“It is always fascinating to see who will do well in the Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix,” Antunes says. “Macau’s street circuit requires a very high level of intelligence to master, as well as courage and speed, which is why the Formula 1 teams play such close attention to the drivers. How they perform over the course of the Macau weekend can play a vital role in their F1 aspirations.”

Macau’s street circuit requires a very high level of intelligence to master
João Manuel Costa Antunes

Those attending this year’s Macau Grand Prix can look forward to several thrilling races over four days. Apart from the weekend’s three major races, the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix which this year celebrates its Golden Jubilee, is another highlight, featuring former and present racers in the Superbike World Championship.

There will also be three support races, including the Macau Touring Car Cup, the Suncity Group Macau Road Sport Challenge and the Suncity Group Chinese Racing Cup.

Last year, the Macau Grand Prix drew 80,000 spectators over the four days and broke records by generating revenue of more than 50 million patacas. In addition, it was broadcast by 44 TV stations around the world, reflecting its status as a key international motorsport event. The event that started as a treasure hunt has truly struck gold.

DAY AT THE RACES

All you need to know to ensure you get the best of the action at this year’s Macau Grand Prix.

Dates and times:
From November 17 to 20, with the main Formula 3 race on the final day. The Guia Circuit is open from 7am to 7pm, with events and performances scheduled throughout each day. Other major races include the Formula 3 Grand Prix qualifying from November 17 to 19, and the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix on November 19.

Best view:
The best place to sit is at the Lisboa Bend rather than the Main Grandstand, as it’s positioned in front of a 90-degree turn and often the scene for some spectacular overtaking attempts.

Tickets:
Race days - November 19 and 20 - are significantly pricier. The most expensive seats in the Lisboa Bend are priced at 900 patacas, while the cheapest tickets are in the standing-only Reservoir Stand for 130 patacas. They can be booked online at www.macauticket.com

Guia Circuit facts: 
Length: 3.8 miles (6.2km) 
Minimum width: 22.8 feet (7m) 
Characteristics: A street circuit with an exhilarating combination of long, fast straights and sharply twisting corners. It is recognised as one of the most demanding circuits in the world.
Formula 3 lap record: 2:10.732 (Edoardo Mortara, 2009, Dallara Volkswagen) 
Motorcycle lap record: 2:23.616 (Stuart Easton, 2010, Kawasaki)