Problem? What problem? It's business as usual for the Macau Grand Prix after departure of long-time servant

Organisers shrug off the significance of leading consultant Barry Bland making an exit from November showpiece as race goes ahead as planned and is elevated to World Cup status

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 September, 2016, 5:12pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 September, 2016, 10:14am

Organisers of November’s Macau Grand Prix have insisted that it will be “business as usual” for this year’s annual showpiece, allaying fears that the race had hit a fork in the road following the shock departure of long-time Formula Three coordinator Barry Bland.

Bland, whose company, Motor Race Consultants, co-ordinated all the overseas teams and handled the complex logistics for the blue riband race, resigned last week after 33 years of service following a restructuring of the event’s organising committee.

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The 70-year-old Briton had been the go-to man since the Macau Grand Prix officially became a Formula Three race, won that year by the late, great Ayrton Senna in 1983. He withdrew from Macau organisation after growing frustrated because entries for deadlines for the race had nearly passed and sporting regulations had not been received.

“Everything is running very late, there are a lot of unanswered questions and I don’t wish to put our reputation on the block for something we’re not happy with,” Bland told Autosport recently.

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Organisers of the 63rd edition of the Grand Prix on November 20 will see increased involvement by the FIA, the governing body of motorsport, with the Macau Sports Bureau, the Macau ASN and the Auotomobile General Association Macau-China forming a new organising committee.

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Organisers downplayed Bland’s departure, and put a positive spin to this year’s race, which has just been elevated to World Cup status and is the highlight of the seven-race programme for the November 19-20 weekend.

Bland was commended for his “enormous contribution” but organisers stressed the race “will be organised to the same international standards as in previous years”.

“Since it began in 1983 Barry Bland worked on the Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix,” read a statement from the Macau Grand Prix organising committee.

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“As a result, Barry Bland has made the decision to discontinue his involvement. The MGPOC respects Mr Bland’s decision and would like to convey its appreciation for his many years of contribution and valued service,” it added.

The Post has learned that deadline for entries has been extended to September 30 from last Friday and that organisers have found a company that will handle the logistics of shipping the cars and engines to Macau from all over the world.

The race, which has long been recognised as the breeding ground of future Formula One stars with 15 of this year’s 22 registered F1 drivers having race on Macau’s demanding 6.2km Guia street circuit, will also receive its final sporting regulations soon.

Organisers were pleased the Macau Grand Prix has been elevated to World Cup status, meaning the race will be the second FIA World Cup event for the Macau weekend, joining the FIA GT World Cup on the 2016 programme.

“As the race has now been elevated to World Cup status, regulations for the race have changed and therefore the FIA will be leading the project,” said the statement.

For many years, the race has been known as the FIA F3 Intercontinental Cup but the new elevated status is not expected to make any significant changes to the race with the world’s best F3 drivers invited to compete on the Guia street circuit.

The Macau Grand Prix has always been known as the world’s most prestigious Formula Three race and its World Cup status is testament to the race’s legendary status.

“The trust established [by the FIA] has led to Macau’s selection as host of the FIA F3 World Cup,” the statement read. “The FIA will both lead and coordinate all technical aspects related to the FIA F3 World Cup including the regulations, entries and registration.”

“Sporting regulations for the Suncity Group Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix are in the process of being confirmed by the FIA and will be issued in due course.”