50 years of the amazing Macau GP
This weekend sees the 50th running of one of the world’s most dangerous and mysterious races – and British riders just can’t get enough of it
When former Macau Grand Prix champions Michael Rutter, John Mcguinness, Stuart Easton, Ian Hutchinson and last year’s winner Peter Hickman line up for the 2016 race they will be celebrating 50 years of bike racing on the streets of the Chinese city.
In 1967 Japanese rider Hiroshi Hasegawa was the winner of the first motorcycle GP held on the 3.8-mile Guia circuit, in the former Portuguese colony famous for its casinos and gambling. Hasegawa rode a 250cc Yamaha, but eight-time Macau winner Rutter and his 2016 rivals will be racing stateof-the-art superbikes on the terrifying Armco-lined streets that are normally choked with commuter traffic.
“Macau is just like a British Superbike circuit – only with barriers around it,” says 2001 winner John Mcguinness.
With a complete absence of run-off or gravel traps, Macau is notoriously dangerous and unforgiving. Only a few foam mattresses strapped to the barriers at some of the slower corners offer any protection, but that has not stopped the world’s top road racers from competing in the end-of-season event over the last five decades.
Ron Haslam won six Macau GPS, while fellow Brits Chas Mortimer (the first European winner in 1976), Mick Grant, Robert Dunlop, Steve Hislop, Carl Fogarty, Mike Edwards, Phillip Mccallen, David Jefferies and Steve Plater have all been victorious too.
Former Grand Prix stars Kevin Schwantz and Didier de Radiguès are among the other famous names who have added Macau success to their CV.
“Macau is a nerve-racking place because of the dangers and because you want to win, and that makes it doubly intense,” says four-time winner Stuart Easton. “But when you overcome that it feels extra special.”
This year the entry list is dominated by British riders, with 19 of the 28 starters from the UK. One of those is British Superbikes star Glenn Irwin, who will be making his Macau debut on the Be Wiser/pbm Ducati.
Josef Hage (3) leads from Bernard Murray (19), Phil Henderson (23) and Steve Henshaw (27) on the approach to Lisboa Bend in the 1980 Macau GP. The race was won by Sadeo Asami (11)