Han Han: life and death on the Guia Circuit

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 November, 2012, 7:04pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 1:30pm

The first time I saw Macau’s Guia Circuit was in the movie, All about Ah-Long. At the end of the movie, motorcycle racer Ah-Long, played by Chow Yun-fat, crashed his bike into a wall and died in a blast of flames on the circuit.

“It’s only a movie,” I told my worried friends. Ah-Long died because the director needed him to. Real-world racing is actually quite safe, I told them.

But the real world proved me wrong this past week, when two fellow racers died during the 59th Macau Grand Prix. Portuguese rider Luis Carreira fatally crashed his bike at Fisherman’s Bend on Thursday, and Hong Kong racer Phillip Yau died after hitting a barrier the day after.

Macau's Guia Circuit, video by Stephen Quinn

Two deaths in two days – just like the events at the Imola trace track in 1994. As a racer myself, I paid my respect to them by lighting up a cigarette and pouring liquor on the ground in the direction of Guia Circuit.

I have seen, heard of and written much about death since I started my racing career. You may be rivals on the circuit one day, and parted by death the next. This time, the bends where the fatal crashes occurred were just several hundred metres away from my hotel. I hardly know what to say.

My family members have tried their best to persuade me to quit. It’s a dangerous game, and you should leave when you’re on top, they said. They are right, of course.

But when you set off to war, you know you’ll be facing bombs not bread. When you go hiking in the mountains, you don’t expect a king-size bed in the depths of the valley. For someone in their early thirties, they have welcomed many new people into their lives in the past; from now on, they are probably going to say goodbye to more people they know and love – unless, of course, they themselves depart first.

Writers love to talk about life and death as if it gives them more depth. Some try to sound brave about it, some seek to deconstruct death. But the more you see and experience, the less you have to say. Those who feel strongly about death should have long been tired of it all.

I think about my friends who have died. But all I could do is lie down, close my eyes, open my eyes again, paint my rearview mirror black, strap myself in, put on my helmet and move to the starting point to continue racing.

I would like to end this piece with an except from one of my novels.

“They went first, and I ran behind them, picking up the poker cards that fell out of their bouncing pockets. I always ran in the air stream they sliced open, yet I didn’t feel less wind resistance. What they did was, they crashed into every wall I would have crashed in, and fell into every ditch I would have fallen in. Then they told me, nothing wrong with the road, go right ahead. But you have used up one favour. Goodbye, my friends.”