What a comeback. The Macau Grand Prix experienced its biggest-ever audience turn-out in November, as drivers from around the world tested their mettle on the twisting turns that make Macao car racers’ Mecca. Onlookers flooded the grandstands for the famed fixture’s 70th anniversary, watching future stars, former winners, and female racers battle it out around the Guia Circuit.
While the Grand Prix was one of the few annual events to soldier on through the pandemic years, it happened on a significantly smaller scale.
This year, international drivers (both veterans and rookies) were back, along with their counterparts from Macao, Hong Kong, and the mainland. Everyone is eager to join the ranks of legendary racers
like Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen, and Lewis Hamilton. These Formula 1 superstars have all made their mark on the Guia Circuit at some point in their illustrious careers.
The Macau Grand Prix is a Formula 3 and 4 street race that began as a treasure hunt in 1954. Its most recent iteration boasted 11 different events held across two consecutive weekends: an assortment of Formula 4, Formula 3, GT (grand tourer), and motorbike races. All vehicles hurtle around the same 6.12-kilometre route, known as the Guia Circuit. It’s widely regarded as one of the world’s most challenging street circuits – with hills, tight bends, and a long straight where a driver can really press his or her pedal to the metal.
The opening weekend
The Grand Prix opened on 11 November with the Macau Formula 4, won by 16-year-old British racer Arvid Lindblad. Lindblad quickly recovered from a crash in his first practice session – which happened to be his first time on the Guia Circuit – to lead the Macau F4 qualifiers and final. His teammate (and Macao’s own) Charles Leong slotted in second, just 0.27 seconds behind.
Another notable name in this year’s Formula 4 race was Filipina Bianca Bustamante. The 18-year-old scored promising times in practice laps, but her luck turned come race day: the dream died with a collision on the Lisboa bend.
“My first Macau Grand Prix was a rollercoaster of emotions,” Bustamante later posted on her website. “I was super excited to tackle the Guia Circuit, and it was truly an honour for me … Despite the fact that we were not able to finish in the last race, I’m very grateful for all the lessons I learned at Macao.”
The Greater Bay Area GT Cup (Formula 3) was another highlight of the weekend. Hong Kong’s Darryl O’Young won the race for the third time. China’s Ling Kang came close on O’Young’s heels.
The TCR Asian Challenge, meanwhile, took place across two sessions. Hong Kong-based drivers won them both: Lo Sze Ho and Thong Wei Fung. Hong Kong’s Tse Ka Hing won the Macau Roadsport Challenge and China’s Luo Kailuo won the Greater Bay Area GT Cup (Formula 4).
A four-day thriller
The second Grand Prix weekend spread its six races across four days. Britain’s esteemed motorcyclist Peter Hickman scooped his fourth win in the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix, fending off nine-time champion and fellow Brit Michael Rutter – who bowed out due to mechanical issues. Another Brit, Davey Todd, came second.
Their race was not without drama. Its opening lap saw its first female entrant, Dutch rider Nadieh Schoots, smash into an already crashed contestant. Neither motorcyclist was seriously hurt, but the crash caused a lengthy delay.
Swiss Raffaele Marciello was hot favourite for the Macau GT Cup-FIA GT World Cup. He dominated the practice laps and, as predicted, comfortably won the final. Edoardo ‘Mr Macao’Mortara followed. This Swiss-Italian-French racer earned his nickname through winning 10 different races at various Macau Grand Prix events over the years.
Luke Browning, from Britain, was victorious in the Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix-FIA F3 World Cup. Qualifying rounds had Browning in pole position, followed by his teammate Alex Dunne, from Ireland, then the Italian Gabrielle Miní. In a thrilling final, however, Dunne (along with Swedish-Bosnian Dino Beganovic) crashed at the Lisboa bend, knocking himself out of the running. Another driver’s car also went up in flames. The top three drivers at the end of the race were Browning, Dennis Hauger (from Norway), and Miní.
Hong Kong’s Adrian Chung won the Macau Grand Prix 70th Anniversary Challenge, held on the event’s final day. China’s Martin Cao and Britain’s Max Hart won their respective heats of the Macau Touring Car Cup. Couto finished 9th place in the first race and hit the barriers at the Lisboa Bend in the second. Hungarian Norbert Michelisz and Belgium’s Frédéric Vervisch won their respective heats in the Macau Guia Race.
Roaring engines. Pit lane theatrics. Burning rubber. Burning cars. The 70th Macau Grand Prix was not short of drama. But the best part? A record-breaking 145,000 people were there to witness the action. That’s significantly more than the 86,000 who attended pre-pandemic, in 2019 – a phenomena boding well for the iconic motor-sporting event’s future, which is intrinsically linked to Macao’s.