Out of the shadows of a famous Macau legend

Teddy Yip Jnr could not help but be born into motor sport and he's had the perfect opportunity to bring back his dad's Theodore Racing name

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 November, 2013, 11:58pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 November, 2013, 12:08pm

There's a photograph of Teddy Yip Jnr taken in 1983, a babe in his father's arms. Next to them is a young man: a 23-year-old Ayrton Senna, shortly before or after winning the Macau Grand Prix in the first year it became a Formula 3 race, for Yip Snr's famed Theodore Racing team.

It's no exaggeration to say Teddy Jnr was born into motor sport - even if his father was otherwise engaged.

"He was at the Indianapolis 500 when I was born," laughs Yip Jnr. "[But as a child] I was always either being taken to [racing] events or being left behind … I spent a lot of time around racetracks.

We're trying to retain the ethos of Theodore and find those best up-and-coming drivers and help them up the ranks
Teddy Yip Jnr

"One of my earliest memories is running around outside the house, all the F3 cars there getting repaired, running around making gear change noises, generally getting in everybody's way, messing about with everything in reach," says the 31-year-old, who has brought back his father's marque for this year's event.

"With it being the 60th anniversary of the Macau GP and the 30th anniversary of Senna's win here, the original Theodore, those two milestones coinciding were the perfect opportunity to bring back the Theodore name, it just seemed to make sense.

"Theodore Racing was such a big part of this event for so long - I think in those years he brought so much of the pageantry to it that really made it special."

And the move has been successful - Theodore Racing by Prema are on pole position for Sunday's Grand Prix after Alex Lynn won the qualification race.

Yip Snr was one of those characters whose life stories are always prefixed with the adjective "colourful", occupying a huge place in the history of the Macau Grand Prix and the city in general.

Born in Indonesia to Chinese parents, he built a business empire in Hong Kong in the 1940s then took it to the next level in the 60s when he and others, including brother-in-law Stanley Ho Hung-sun, set up Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau, a monopoly controlling gambling and many other leisure activities.

In motor racing, Yip began as a competitor in the 1956 Macau Grand Prix, when the event was still a jolly for local rich chaps, and from the 1970s entered his Theodore Racing Team in various championships around the world including Formula 5000, Formula Two, Formula Atlantic and Formula One. Many of the biggest names in the sport drove for him, including Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakkinen and of course Senna.

"He took it from a parochial event to what it is today," says Philip Newsome, Hong Kong-based author of books about the Macau GP, including last year's biography Teddy Yip: From Macau to the World and Back.

So it's something of a surprise when Teddy Jnr admits it took him many years to figure out that he himself should be involved in racing - and that his father, who died in 2003 aged 90, never encouraged him.

"[Driving] crossed my mind as the aspirations of a small child, never really thinking it was an actual possibility. My dad was the responsible father, encouraging me to study, be a doctor or lawyer, those sort of things."

Yip Jnr eventually became involved with the Status Grand Prix team."[Motor racing] was [calling to me] but I never really realised it was a possible path - then I got a call from Status saying would you like to get involved. They were doing A1GP at the time. I went to the final race of the season and realised 'I can actually do this, wouldn't that be amazing?' - so I jumped in with both feet and it's been wonderful."

Status - whose managing director is Irish ex-driver David Kennedy, who raced in F1 for Theodore Racing - run teams in the open-wheel GP3 series and a prototype sports car in the LeMans 24 hours.

"We're trying to retain the ethos of Theodore and find those best up-and-coming drivers and help them up the ranks," says Yip, whose drivers at Status have included reigning Macau champion Antonio Felix da Costa.

And the return of Theodore Racing may not be a one-off, says Yip, with eyes on a return to Macau and perhaps beyond.

“I think with the right commercial partners absolutely, I’d love to see it come back full-time. We’ve got a great partner in SJM [Sociedade de Jogos de Macau] this year, longer-term it would be wonderful.

“[Formula One] is certainly an ambition - it’s a very difficult one to achieve, but again with the right group of partners, anything’s possible.”