News and views on motorsports

Monday, November 20, 2006

Macau Guia And BTCC Note

I was very upset that for the first time in years, the Macau Grand Prix was not shown live on Star Sports. They obviously thought that the premier Formula 3 event of the year and the championship finale of the World Touring Car Championship was not worthy to be up against some stupid ATP Masters Tennis tournament. I can understand a grand slam tennis tournament taking precedence but this???

Anyway, thankfully it was shown as a delayed telecast and as usual Macau never fails to serve up some good racing. Like that other famous street circuit at Monte Carlo, its hard to overtake in Macau but the circuit itself is so good and incredibly demanding. Like Monaco, it has some incredibly tight corners and hairpins but it has also a damn fine waterfront section that includes that incredible flat out Mandarin bend before hard braking into the tight and accident prone Lisboa.

If you're going to win in the Guia race then pole position is an absolute must. Just like Monte Carlo. And once again, its that man Andy Priaulx who took pole ahead of (ugh!) Dirk Muller in the BMW Team Deutschland, Yvan Muller in the SEAT Leon and Duncan Huisman. I'll never understand why BMW are keeping this overrated Dutchman. Championship leader Augusto Farfus Jr started from seventh and carrying the maximum weight handicap of 80 kilos. As Priaulx himself mentioned 80 kilos is a helluva lot of weight to bear and its just as well he came into this race with only 45 kilos of handicap, else that pole would not have been possible.

In the first rce it was Andy for lights to flag and ably backed up by Duncan Huisman who held off Yvan Muller right till the end. Fabrizio Giovanardi in the semi works JAS Honda kept these two in close contact throughout the entire race. The weight laden Farfus I thought did admirably well to take fifth spot.

In the second race, Jorg Muller made a stunning start to pass both Peter Terting and Tom Coronel off the grid. 75 kilos handicap or not, that rear drive BMW is quite a demon at the lights. And just as in the first race, the infamous Lisboa had a opening lap incident. If the first race took a number of Chevrolets, this second race proved hard on the SEAT runners. A few folks did not start this race and among them was Alex Zanardi who suffered terminal damage to his car in the first race. Andy Priaulx held off Fabrizio Giovanardi to take fifth and win the world championship. This is his third touring car title in a row and I wouldn't bet against him taking it again next year.

Of couse, Mario Thiessen had to force a smile on the podium. Whilst Jorg Muller won the race, he could not take the championship. In the end the gap between him and Andy was a mere one point. But I bet Mario is seething that yet again, his German drivers were beaten by a Brit. I do have to say that Jorg was pretty lucky at the restart of the second race because Peter Terting basically held everyone back with a broken gearbox. Else I thought the two SEATs of Coronel and Muller would have been a lot closer to him.

In a weight handicapped series like the WTCC, its hard to tell who drove well and who didn't. Giovanardi in the JAS Honda looked impressive to me hassling the works cars but then of course he would since he carried no handicap at all. I felt sorry for Farfus though as he crashed on the opening lap of the second race. Despite his 80 kilos he had done a bloody good job. Much as I hate to admit it but Jorg Muller did drive well despite that 75 kilos, though luck was on his side.

As ever on this demanding circuit the attrition rate was very high with half the field failing to finish. Famous casualties include Rickard Rydell, Peter Terting, Jan Magnussen, Gabriele Tarquini and Nicola Larini. The latter three all ex Formula 1 folks as well.

Congratulations again to Andy Priaulx. In modern touring cars, he's proving to be the class of the field. And if Thiessen wants a German win he's going to have to hire some better Germans to do it. And also a job well done to Racing Bart Mampaey who yet again despite being a lot smaller than the Schnitzer team has beaten them again. D0n't you just love it when the little guy wins?

Speaking about little people, congratulations also to Matt Neal for retaining the British Touring Car Championship in the independently entered Halfords Honda Integra. In the process taking both drivers and team titles in the BTCC and the independents trophies as well. This year, Matt was up against incredibly strong opposition from the likes of Jason Plato, Gavin Smith and Fabrizio Giovanardi who all had the full weight of the Volkswagen Audi Group behind them in the SEAT Sport UK Leons. Goes to show that there is a spot for independents in this increasingly manufacturer obsessed world. I guess if the base machinery is an excellent one as you have with the Integra beating works SEATs and Vauxhalls is not a problem.

Finally, I hope this circuit makes it into Gran Turismo 5. Its an absolute cracker.


patrick said...

Little people?

You've obviously never seen Neal up close. He's huge ;-)

But yes, congratulations to Priaulx, whose achievements remain largely ignored here in the UK...

patrick said...

Oh, and If you want to drive round Macau on a computer, I seem to recall seeing screenshots from a macau circuit on RFactor.