Where the Rubber Hits the Road
F3 Goes FIA
Now elevated to a part of the FIA F3 World Cup, the Suncity Group Formula 3 Grand Prix promises to be another hugely exciting event, featuring some returning heroes and a lot of promising rookie talent lining up on the grid.
All eyes will be on Swedish driver Felix Rosenqvist who will be returning to Macau to try to achieve an unprecedented hat-trick victory. After winning back-to-back victories in 2014 and 2015, Felix became the only driver in the history of the race (together with Edoardo Mortara) to claim two wins and defend his title. Behind the wheel of a Dallara-Mercedes, he is once again teaming up with local racing outfit SJM Theodore Racing by Prema, the same squad that carried him to last year’s victory and to the 2015 FIA F3 European Championship title. His teammates will be Maximilian Günther of Germany who placed second in this year’s European Championship and is racing in Macau for the first time, and third place finisher in Macau in
2014, New Zealander Nick Cassidy.
Cassidy came in fourth place overall in the European Championship this season and will be looking forward to facing off with another rival in Macau, British driver George Russell who finished just ahead of him in third place overall in this year’s Euro series. Russell is making his Macau debut and teaming upwith former Macau champion Daniel Juncadella of Spain who won here in 2011. Both will be racing with the Silverstone-based Hitech GP team. Adding to the strong field from the European series will be Swede Joel Eriksson who claimed the Rookie title in the championship this year.
Eriksson will head up an all-rookie team in Macau including Finnish Red Bull Junior driver Niko Kari, and China’s Ferrari Driver Academy prospect Zhou Guan Yu. Ericksson finished one place ahead of Englishman Callum Ilott in the European Championship this year, the drivers placing fifth and sixth respectively. Ilott made his Macau debut last year and this year teams up with Brazilian driver Pedro Piquet, the son of three-time F1 world champion, Nelson Piquet.
But it won’t be just the Europeans to look out for on the track. There will also be a strong lineup from Japan including Kenta Yamashita, winner of this year’s Japanese F3 Championship. He will be teaming up with Macau’s own Andy Chang Wing Chung. Last year’s Japanese Formula 4 champion, Sho Tsuboi will make his Macau debut after finishing third overall in this year’s Japanese F3 series.
And the winner of this year’s Spa 24 Hours, Alexander Sims will be back to try to improve on his third place finish at last year’s Macau F3. The youngest racer in the field will be German David Beckmann who will debut in Macau at just 16 years of age.
The other FIA recognized event will be the SJM Macau GT Cup – FIA GT World Cup, this year featuring supercar manufacturers Audi, Porsche, Mercedes and Lamborghini. And just like in the F3 event, the GT race will see the winner for the past two years, Maro Engel returning to try to make it three victories in a row in his all-new Mercedes-AMG GT3. He will be joined in the Mercedes-AMG Driving Academy team by his teammate of the
past two years, Dutchman Renger van der Zande – the two made a formidable partnership in 2014 crossing the finish line in first and second place.
One man who will be determined to put an end to Mercedes’ winning streak will be Edoardo Mortara, who himself won the GT Cup three years in a row from 2011 to 2013. Mortara, who also previously won the F3 race in back-to-back years, will be seen, as always, behind the wheel of this Audi R8 LMS GT3, joined by the man who finished runner-up to him in the 2010 F3 race, Laurens Vanthoor. Both drivers have a wealth of GT experience, so we can expect some very hot competition.
New Zealander Earl Bamber will be back in the cockpit of his Porsche 911 GT3 entered by Manthey Racing, who won the 2015 FIA World Endurance Cup. Bamber won last year’s Le Mans 24 Hours but failed to finish in Macau, so he will definitely be hoping for better luck this year.
Making its FIA GT World Cup title debut, Lamborghini will be represented by FFF Racing, which competes in the GT Asia Series. Crowd favourite and local racing hero Andre Couto will pilot one of the Huracan GT3’s, teaming up with Mirko Bortolotti.
And another familiar face in Macau, Hong Kong driver Darryl O’Young will be driving a Porsche 911 GT3-R for Craft Bamboo Racing. Darryl won the inaugural Macau GT Cup back in 2008 and will be keen for another crack at the podium this year.
Two-Wheel Golden Jubilee
This year’s event is a big one for two-wheel racing fans with the Motorcycle Grand Prix celebrating its 50th anniversary. Arguably the most unforgiving street race in the world, the 6.2km Guia circuit will welcome back a total of five previous victors, all looking to add one more Macau trophy to their cabinets: defending champion Peter Hickman; eight-time winner and the undisputed ‘Two Wheel King of Macau’ Michael Rutter; fourtime winner Stuart Easton; 2013 winner Ian Hutchinson; and 2001 champion and multiple-podium finisher in Macau, John McGuinness.
Making his roadracing debut in 2014, after a successful Superbike career, 29-year-old Hickman impressed everyone last year, taking the checkered flag on only his second visit to Macau. Legend of the track Michael Rutter took third place last year. Nineteen years after his Macau debut, Rutter is still a dominant force on this circuit, and this year he teams up with another fierce competitor, Stuart Easton, on a pair of Bathams/SMT BMW’s.
After winning a hat-trick in Macau, Easton was absent for a couple of years after a serious accident. On returning in 2014, he removed any doubts about his recovery by winning the Macau race a full 14 seconds ahead of Rutter. Another rider to watch will be Ian Hutchinson, who comes to Macau in hot form after a hat-trick of victories at the Isle of Man TT this past summer. The second most successful rider in Isle of Man TT history, John McGuinness missed out on a podium finish last year to friend and rival Rutter, and is joined on the Honda Racing team this year by 30-year-old Manx rider Conor Cummins.
And while Briton Martin Jessopp has never won in Macau, he has had four podium finishes, three as runner-up. Could this golden jubilee event finally be the year he takes the top spot? With a field like this, he’ll certainly have his work cut out for him.