RACER’S EDGE

MAG­NIF­I­CENT MACAU: A RACE IN A MIL­LION

F1 Racing (UK) - - CONTENTS - PETER WIND­SOR @F1rac­ing_­mag face­book.com/ f1rac­ing­mag

Peter Wind­sor on the driv­ers’ favourite: Macau

It was a cold Oc­to­ber af­ter­noon on that bland es­tate. Rally-jacket weather. Fogged-up win­dows. A draught com­ing from some­where un­der the dash. It was easy to find the house, though. Look for the Al­fa­sud Ti. Can’t miss it.

I parked and walked to­wards the door, not­ing the shat­tered mir­rors on both sides of the Alfa but their frames still in­tact. I smiled, imag­in­ing him blast­ing the ’Sud through a gap just wide enough to catch the frames by a mil­lime­tre both sides. I rang the bell. “Sorry,” said Ayr­ton, T-shirt tucked neatly into his jeans, as was his way. “I’m just on the phone. Sit down. I’ll be with you in a minute.”

The small liv­ing room was neat and sparse. A few framed pic­tures of his fam­ily. An RAC Com­pe­ti­tion Li­cence holder. Some can­dles. TV. Sound sys­tem. I could hear Ayr­ton’s voice from the kitchen. He was talk­ing in Por­tuguese, calmly and with­out emo­tion. Then he was with me. “Sorry about that. You found the place okay?” “Sure. And thanks for find­ing the time. This isn’t for Au­to­car. I’m rac­ing a sa­loon car at Macau, as I said, and I won­dered whether I could ask you to talk me around a lap? You love it, don’t you?”

“Oh yes. Best cir­cuit in the world. It’s the most en­joy­able week­end in rac­ing. I wish ev­ery race was there… sorry… would you like a Coke or some­thing?” “Thanks. Coke’s fine.” Ayr­ton went to the kitchen and re­turned with two Cokes. “Okay. Your recorder is switched on?” “Sure. New bat­ter­ies.” “Let’s start by as­sum­ing you’re on a fly­ing lap. You use all the road through the right-hand kink. It’s easy-flat but you have to re­spect a slight bump about one-and-a-half me­tres from the apex on the right. In an F3 car you run to the left of it, miss­ing it by two or three mil­lime­tres, but in your sa­loon car you might get away with run­ning over it. If you do so, you’ll see a drain cover half a me­tre from the guardrail on the in­side. That’s about two-anda-half me­tres be­fore the pre­cise apex. You must run be­tween the drain cover and the guard-rail – prob­a­bly ten cen­time­tres from the guard-rail…”

So it went on. By the time he had fin­ished his laps of Macau, my recorder had been run­ning for 47 min­utes. Ev­ery de­tail. Ev­ery slope, ev­ery un­du­la­tion, ev­ery sur­face change. It was all there, im­printed on his mind. Not once did he pause.

Thus be­gan my love af­fair with Macau. Say­ing much for Ayr­ton’s tu­ition and far less for my phys­i­cal tal­ent, I man­aged to fin­ish sec­ond in my race that year – the Jackie Chan Tro­phy. I was prob­a­bly miles away from the limit of the Mit­subishi Turbo, but all of Ayr­ton’s de­tails – the drain cov­ers, the bumps, the en­try points – were ab­so­lutely there, ex­actly as he had de­scribed them. Ex­actly.

What Ayr­ton didn’t pre­pare me for were the ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties at Macau – the things you’d never do at another race track, the ‘school’s out’ stuff, the crazy driver stuff – but then he was only there in 1983 to win and to win ruth­lessly, with the min­i­mum of dis­trac­tion and with the max­i­mum of ef­fect.

Ayr­ton would never have done what I saw them do. He wouldn’t have taken the wheel of a Mini, as Emanuele Pirro did late one evening to drive a lap with Ste­fan Jo­hans­son hud­dled down in the pedal area, work­ing the ac­cel­er­a­tor, brake and clutch with his hands as EP shouted in­struc­tions. He wouldn’t have gone par­ty­ing with Joey Dun­lop and the other bik­ers; he wouldn’t have ar­rived for prac­tice straight from a night club, as Gonzo Ro­driguez did when he was driv­ing for Alan Dock­ing.

Ayr­ton fo­cused only on the rac­ing. What I al­ways re­mem­ber about that af­ter­noon with him was the way his eyes lit up as he talked his way around the lap – out of Lis­boa, up the hill to the blind brow, through the square, down the hill through the high­speed esses, where the slight­est er­ror on en­try stayed with you right to the cor­ner at the bot­tom. What I re­mem­bered most was his love for a cir­cuit like Macau.

Years later I sat down with Lewis Hamilton as he stud­ied a map of what was then the new cir­cuit in Baku. “I don’t know,” he said. “I mean, why don’t they just make ev­ery street cir­cuit like Monaco or Macau? That way they can’t go wrong.”

He be­gan to walk away. “You know,” he said softly, “I some­times day­dream about go­ing back to Macau. I do the whole thing so no one knows who I am. I just get to the cir­cuit, wear a white hel­met or some­thing, and jump into the car. I’d love to do that. F1 is F1 but I re­ally miss Macau…”

I thought, of course, of Ayr­ton, and of that af­ter­noon in his home. And I won­dered why

mo­tor­sport de­crees that the best driv­ers, once they are ac­claimed, must not re­turn to the cir­cuit they love the most. It’s like golfers not be­ing al­lowed to re­turn to Au­gusta once they’ve won the Mas­ters.

So here’s the next item to be checked, please, on my list for Lib­erty Me­dia: let’s find a way of en­abling all the top F1 driv­ers to race again at Macau. You want to kick­start F1’s im­age in China? Here’s your an­swer. An in­door kart ben­e­fit in Shang­hai, and then, a cou­ple of days later, the Macau Grand Prix in F3 cars. I can’t think of another cir­cuit in the world that is so loved and so revered. I can’t imag­ine a driver who wouldn’t want to do it (even though Fer­rari, I con­cede, would prob­a­bly not be sup­port­ive). No mat­ter. We can live with­out Vet­tel or Kimi. Give us Le­clerc and Giov­inazzi in­stead.

One thing’s for sure: this has to be a race, not some bor­ing street demo, which means that there will be no prizes for guess­ing whose name will be on the top of the en­try list: L. Hamilton (Dal­lara-mercedes).

Then again, per­haps we should also leave a space for another driver, who will cer­tainly be there in spirit.

MACAU IS THE MOST EN­JOY­ABLE WEEK­END IN RAC­ING. I WISH EV­ERY RACE WAS THERE ayr­ton senna

Ayr­ton at home, ready to ad­vise Peter on Macau

Senna drives to vic­tory at Macau in 1983. He loved the venue and could re­call a lap there with pin­point ac­cu­racy

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