It’s the 60th anniversary of the Macau Grand Prix this November and the Macau government is gearing up for a bumper event. They clearly have lots of money to throw around as the rich kids of Asia pile into their expensive cars alongside the world’s leading touring car and Formula 3 drivers to see who can fling their machines into the wall fastest. The first lap of many of the races is like kids’ fairground dodgem cars at adult scale – with literally millions of dollars written off in bent metal in every race. But that’s all part of the boy racer fun and why people love to watch motorsport in Macau. It’s a modern bloodsport, a sort of Asian form of bullfighting, with sadly, lives often lost.
This year’s two-weekend event will naturally be organised with the usual eclectic flair for which the occasion is famous for. Much of Macau still seems to operate under that quaint old fashioned way where that new fangled internetty thing is treated with mistrust. All too often emails vanish into ether and remain unanswered, the same goes for sms and nothing short of showing up in person gets a response. I long ago gave up trying to arrange anything electronically in Macau after weeks of frustrating silences. It did not matter whether I was trying to strengthen reciprocal links between the wonderful Club Militaire and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, or order Portuguese wine, it seemed the result was the same. Electronic media and Macau does not connect.
Actually I have never cracked the delicate art of making remote connections over there. It has to be done in person. A phone call to Club Militaire asking to whom a letter to the club’s general manger should be addressed to produced a long silence. Finally it came: “to Club manager.” Did he have a name, I inquired. “No,” came the firm response. And surprise surprise, the letter was never answered.
Two days off
So last week the Macau government held their press conference to announce the sponsor line up. Star River‧Windsor Arch is title sponsor of the 60th Macau Grand Prix
The Macau Grand Prix Committee (MGPC) said that in addition to being overall sponsor, the company, which has supported the event for several years, is also title sponsor of all three headline races on the programme: The FIA Formula 3 Intercontinental Cup, the Star River‧Windsor Arch Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix; The Star River‧Windsor Arch Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix – 47th Edition, the world-famous two-wheeled thriller; and the FIA World Touring Car Championship – Guia Race of Macau – Presented by Star River‧Windsor Arch, the grand finale of the 2013 season.
But more interestingly, the organisers said they thought the average Macau man in the street does not know enough about the event. This doubtful, having been driven in a terrifying manner around the streets in the days following the races by taxi drivers who now clearly believe they too are Lewis Hamilton. The issue does not seem to be lack of knowledge as much as a lack of interest. So the University of Macau has done a report into all this. Among a range of ideas, with regard to solving the traffic problem caused by the Grand Prix, it suggests considering making the racing days of the 60th MGP (14/11 and 15/11) non-compulsory public holidays.
The journalist present seemed to be dozing and did not pick this up. No one asked questions in the press conference. It remains to be seen whether the Macau government acts on the university suggestion or not. If they do go ahead with the public holidays, it's going to cost a lot of people a lot of money when they find their staff have disappeared off to watch the motorsport. Only in Macau.