Macau Grand Prix’s prestigious Guia Race has 45 years of history – but faces uncertain future
Drivers are waiting anxiously to see what the coming years will have in store for the prestigious touring cars event
The cliche is that the toughest circuits bring out the best from the best but Tom Coronel says he knows exactly what it takes to win the Macau Guia Race.
“It’s a place where you need real balls,” he says. “The racing can be so tight that if you make one mistake, everyone in the field pays for it.”
The veteran touring car driver might be missing in action this year after previously racing in Macau around a dozen times in various classes – he’s preparing for a solo assault on the Dakar race – but Coronel will be watching every moment of coverage from his base in the Netherlands. As, he says, will the rest of the international racing community.
“If you’re not there, you watch it and wish you were there,” says Coronel. “People compare it to Monaco but Monaco is for [wimps]. Macau has a great history and we are all hoping to see where this race goes in the future.”
This weekend sees the Guia Race celebrate its 45th anniversary but this edition marks its last under a current agreement with the TCR International Series. That means its future is up in the air, with possibilities being bandied about including a new FIA Touring Car World Cup – which would give the Macau weekend three FIA World Cup events, with the F3 and GT – or a return into the arms of the FIA World Touring Car Championship, which hosted a round in Macau from 2005-2014.
“Well I drive in the WTCC so I hope we come back – in fact I dream about it,” Coronel said.
Race organisers said that the future was a work in progress.
“The Macau Guia Race has remained at the forefront of international touring car competition for several decades, and we are confident that, whatever the next evolution may be, it will continue to be the race every touring car driver wants to win,” the organising committee said in a statement.
The FIA is also playing its cards close to its chest, saying it would not consider the future until after this weekend.
“At this moment there is no plan,” said Frederic Espinos, FIA GT commission manager.
Some of the most famous names in touring cars have graced the Guia event, including the great Yvan Muller, four-time WTCC winner, and victorious in Macau in 2012 and 2013
Other WTCC champs to have won in Macau in recent years include Robert Huff (eight times) and reigning three-time WTCC king Jose Maria Lopez (2014). But perhaps the most remarkable achievement across the race’s 45-year-history came in the very first edition.
By the time irrepressible Hongkonger John MacDonald had sat behind the wheel of his Austin Cooper S in 1972, he’d already won the Macau Grand Prix (1965) and the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix (1969). He completed a unique set of victories that will surely never be repeated – and then came back in 1972, 1973 and 1975 to win the Grand Prix three more times.
Ian Titchmarsh will be another keen observer of the Guia Race this weekend – as he has been in his role as course commentator since 1981.
“But where it will go from here, I don’t know,” he said. “It’s been with the TCR series which is strong. It had its time with the WTCC. The thing is it won’t get the international recognition or the drivers unless it is with an international series and there are only two – TCR and WTCC.
“TCR has regional championships so I guess that is an option going forward. But for the moment we will just have to wait and see what is ahead.”