Watson's back on Macau track
ONE of the most successful Hong Kong-based racing teams at the Macau Grand Prix are back - and with the leading Guia race driver of the past two years.
Watson's, who surprisingly pulled out of last year's event, are returning this year with a three-pronged attack on the Guia race led by defending champion Emanuelle Pirro of Italy.
Driving a BMW 318i, Pirro, the 1991 and 1992 winner, will be joined by British Touring Car champion Joachim Winkelhock and Steve Soper.
The return of Watson's is a massive boost to the racing weekend on November 20-21 following a spate of withdrawals by other major sponsors.
BMW have a fine tradition in Macau and should form a powerful alliance with Watson's, who will once again be parading their distinctive green and white racing colours on the streets of Macau.
A. S. Watson group managing director Asim Ghosh said his company were delighted to be back in the frame after a year's absence.
''It seemed to be the perfect opportunity which was too good to pass up,'' said Ghosh.
''It is different from previous years as we are now sponsoring a team rather than the Grand Prix itself.
''We did sign on late in the day. We were approached by BMW, who have a long relationship with Macau, and it looked to be an attractive opportunity.'' Ghosh added: ''It's great to be back at Macau and doubly pleasing to renew our partnership with Emanuelle.'' Pirro, who drove with the Italian Dallara Formula One team in the 1990-91 season, won the 1991 Guia Race for Watson's and was victorious last year with Mobil.
Watson's made their Macau debut in 1985 when Gianfranco Brancatelli won the Guia race and then the following year Andy Wallace won the blue riband Formula Three event.
The title remained with Watson's in 1987 thanks to a great drive by Ireland's former Formula One driver Martin Donnelly.
After a year's absence, Tim Harvey brought the team more success with his Guia race win in 1989.
Their return to Macau reverses a recent sponsorship trend which has seen Marlboro and Camel withdraw their support.
It also coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Macau Grand Prix.
To coincide with the anniversary, organisers have spent more than $50 million to upgrade the facilities, which are now comparable to many of the world's top street circuits.
Meanwhile, some of the racing machines which have graced the Macau Grand Prix down the years will be put on display in a museum of Grand Prix memorabilia celebrating 40 years of racing in the Portuguese enclave.
Sixteen cars and eight motorcycles will be given a permanent home in the museum as part of the redevelopment of Macau's motorsport facilities.
The museum, which opens on November 18, will see cars as diverse as a replica of the TR2 which won the 1954 Grand Prix to Swede Rickard Rydell's original Toms Toyota which won last year's race.
The museum will also include cars driven to victory by current Formula One star Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard as well as Pedro Lami's machine which finished second two years ago. Pirro's original Schnitzer which won the Guia race in 1991 will also be put on display.
Teddy Yip, the father of Macau Grand Prix racing and founder of the highly successful Theodore racing team, has donated five of his cars to the museum.
The museum will include the Suzuki RGR500 on which Kevin Schwantz so easily won the 1989 motorcycle Grand Prix and two bikes which ''Rocket'' Ron Haslam rode to victory in the early 1980s.
The oldest bike on display will be Chad Mortimer's Honda TZ350 Yamaha which blitzed the opposition in 1976.
The family of the late Alfenio ''Dodjie'' Laurel have donated the Lotus car in which Laurel won back-to-back Grand Prix victories in 1962 and 1963.
Filipino Laurel crashed in the 1967 Grand Prix, becoming the only fatality in the history of the event.