Take the Monaco F1 without the glitz and glamor, throw in a Vegas casino or two, add some Chinese culture, with a nod to Portugal, and you have got a rough picture of Macau and the Macau Grand Prix. A former Portuguese colony with gambling revenue that surpasses Las Vegas, Macau remains an anomaly in this area of the world, where conformity to the Chinese central Government is more the norm.
The racing takes place on the 3.8 mile armco lined Guia Circuit, a street circuit with long wide fast straights leading into tight corners that snake past casinos and high-rise buildings. Part of the thrill of watching real road racing is the ability to get up close to the action, sadly that is not possible at Macau mainly due to the tight nature of the track. Spectating is therefore pretty much limited to three large grandstands all within the first mile of the track, unless of course you are fortunate enough to have a media pass.
Given the obvious dangers, it takes a certain breed of motorcycle racer to race at Macau. A glance through the list of past winners reads as a recent who’s who of road racing legends, who between them boast more wins at the Isle of Man TT and North West 200 than I can count. There is even a former World 500cc Champion and multiple World Superbike Champion included in the list.
While the the motorcycle race was my sole reason for going, the Macau Motorcycle GP is actually part of what is predominately a car event, which includes the final two rounds of the World Touring Car Championship, the Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix, and several support races.
Conditions throughout practice and qualifying were challenging with poor light a feature of both. The conditions came into play again on Saturday afternoon when the race was red-flagged before a lap had been completed due to rain.
While the rain was not heavy it is simply too dangerous to race a 200 mph motorcycle around Macau in the wet, in fact the teams do not even bring wet tires to the event. With the rain showing no signs of letting up, and light rapidly fading, the motorcycle race was eventually rescheduled to run on Sunday after the Formula 3 race.
Sunday would prove to be a frustrating day with nothing on track for more than two hours between the end of the World Touring Car race and the Formula 3 race. When the motorcycle race finally got under way at 5pm on Sunday the light was again becoming an issue, in fact by the time Michael Rutter was on the podium celebrating his record 8th victory, it was dark.
During this year’s event Portuguese rider Luis Carreira lost his life following a crash in qualifying at Fisherman’s Bend. It is difficult to put into words how you feel at times like this. Everyone involved in real road racing knows the risks, it is motorcycle racing in its purist form and that is why we love it. When something like this happens it hits everyone hard yet we manage to detach ourself from our grief, at least for a while, and carry on racing.
Tony Goldsmith is an Isle of Man based freelance motorcycle racing photographer specialising in the Isle of Man TT races. He has also covered selected rounds of the British Superbike Championship and MotoGP. His online archive is available at www.tgfphotos.com and he can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo: © 2012 Tony Goldsmith / TGF Photos – All Rights Reserved