News and views on motorsports

Monday, November 22, 2004

Notes From Macau

I love the Macau Grand Prix and watch it almost every year without fail since a few years ago. In an age of increased corporate atmospherics in races these days, Macau can still hark back to an age where racing was truly racing and a sense of fun and camraderie still existed. It is, as the Star Sports commentators mentioned, a race for purists race entered by real racing drivers instead of corporate robots. That is why Macau is visited by people like Charlie Whiting and other Formula 1 people.

To be honest, I'm more interested in the Guia Touring Car Race than the Formula 3 race. Don't get me wrong, the Formula 3 event is important. Together with the Marlboro Masters held at Zandvoort, it is the premier Formula 3 event every season and is the one that every future Formula 1 hopeful wants to win. Formula 1 team managers of course watch the event closely. Among the most famous winners of the Macau Grand Prix are Aryton Senna and Michael Schumacher. Ten Formula 1 world championships between them. Then of course there's Mika Hakkinen who was on course to win the event before crashing into Michael Schumacher. Ayrton Senna once described Macau as the most demanding circuit in the world. Despite a street style layout with a hairpin that is under permanent yellow flag, it's layout is far more interesting than Tilke designed dogfests. If you watched last year's race at Macau, you would probably have seen a Jordan doing demonstration laps there. Boy, was that absolutely thrilling. Anyway, this year's Formula 3 event was won by Frenchman Andre Premat with Robert Kubica of Poland taking pole position beating much fancied opposition in the form of American Richard Antinucci, Nico Rosberg and Nelson Piquet Junior. Both Antinucci and Piquet started from dismal qualifying positions and never really featured in the race. They both finished 9th and 10th respectively.

As I said earlier, I love watching the touring cars. Normally, this event attracts plenty of competition with cars of a variety different makes. Last year we had Honda, BMW and Alfa battling it out alongside private entries from Japan with Toyotas. This year however saw a grid filled with BMWs in the top 12 positions, with only a couple of SEATs spoiling an otherwise a total whitewash. No Alfas, no teams from Japan. The Hondas of Toni Ruokkonen and Simon Harrison absolutely nowhere. It was just dismal. Just what exactly happened to the rest?

Upon closer inspection, it turns out that the BMWs and SEATs were running to European Touring Car Championship rules. This is super touring specifications to you and me whereas the others are running super production. With Macau being a world championship round of next year's World Touring Car Championship, BMW and SEAT understandably want track time before coming here next year. But it all ends up being rather daft if you ask me. I mean, mixing super production and super touring cars in one race? I'm not surprised that this turned away many entrants. If you're running to Group N+ super production rules, why on Earth would you want to compete? You have absolutely no chance at all against the super touring guys. The results do not discriminate between the two sets of rules. It's all quite daft. I believe they just ought to run it to Super Production rules only. Incidentally, I not at all a supporter of the current British Touring Car Championship format where there are two classes. Its confusing actually. I mean watching a guy finishing 10th on the road but winning his class and going up the podium is just daft. They should go back to the days in the 90s when everyone ran to a single set of rules i.e. the super touring specification.

It all added up to a rather disappointing Guia race in my view. The most boring one in years really. Despite all the crashes in the Guia race, it felt like Formula BMW to me. Nevertheless the race was won by Jorg Muller who became the first man ever to win the Macau Grand Prix in both Formula 3 and Guia categories. Hopefully, we'll see a more exciting Macau Grand Prix next year. As I mentioned earlier, the Guia race becomes a full fledge world championship event in the world touring cars. Expect to see a more competitive race between a host of manufacturers including BMW, Honda, SEAT, Chevrolet, Citroen and even a Cherry! I just hope despite all the manufacturer attention, Macau will still retain its purist racing atmosphere.

1 comment:

tatamgood said...

I'm afraid I have to correct you on your comments regarding Team BMW and SEAT cars specifications. Both these cars are not running the Super Touring specifications which was stopped at the end of year 2000 series. They are now using the Super 2000 (S2000) regulations which was used in the European Touring Car Championship and this regulations will continue on to the new 2005 World Touring Car Championship.

As to Toni Ruokonen and Simon Harison Honda's, they too are using the S2000 specifications cars at Macau, in fact it's the same cars they used in the ETCC.

I hope this would clarify things and I'm sure you know that the S2000 specification BMW's are very competitive this year when they won the manufacturers and drivers title in the ETCC against the mights of Alfa's, SEAT, Ford, Honda's and of course the Peugeot's. Sad about their F1 team though.