MACAO, 08 NOVEMBER 2003

AN ORIENTAL ADVENTURE - HISTORIC RACES AT MACAO

The dust has now settled on what proved to be a truly memorable adventure for those lucky enough to attend the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the Macau Grand Prix. Although pressure of work prevented me from going the news travelling back via phone calls and the internet made it clear that this was a once in a lifetime experience for all involved.

It was at the end of August that Graham White of the HSCC made the call inviting us to take the Elva to Macau. The government of the former Portuguese colony had decided to host a special set of races celebrating the history of this famous event. All expenses were to be paid and so despite being unable to travel myself the car was duly dispatched for Bob Birrell to drive and Don Haldenby to oversee the mechanical side.

The slow boat to China arrived safely and from all accounts the weekend proved to be one of the best ever with hospitality second to none. All the teams were treated like royalty from start to finish and the chance to drive this famous Guia circuit proved well worthwhile. For myself, I was restricted to monitoring progress from afar through the wonders of the internet. Logging on to the official website - www.macau.grandprix.gov.mo I found that it was possible to listen to practice and qualifying. Very interesting it was until I heard the fateful words “…the blue Elva has just kissed the Armco…” Not what one wants to hear out of the blue! However all was well as Bob had fallen foul of the famous Melia hairpin on his very first flying lap. This corner is so tight that overtaking is forbidden as the track is immediately blocked if cars fall over each other – or the scenery in this case. Damage was slight with only the headlight cover being smashed. So after furious taping off he went again.

The first session was run in greasy and treacherous conditions so discretion was the order of the day and Bob finished a respectable 20th out of 30 runners. Simon Hadfield topped the list in his pretty Lotus 30 just ahead of Frank Sytner (Lola T70) and Denis Welch in the Lotus 23B – a trio that would feature much during the weekend.

The circuit is a bit like a fast version of Monaco with a very quick seafront blast – Simon reckoned he was topping 170mph – before climbing up into the old town for a very tight and twisty bit. The big bangers like Hadfield and Sytner would roar away down the front section before being caught up in the town by the more nimble runners such as Denis in his Lotus.

Race one on the Saturday went well with Bob steadily climbing up the field as he grew in confidence. Finishing 16th just whetted his appetite for the Sunday. I gather Don asked him when he was proposing to start racing as he hadn’t come all this way to watch him cruising around!! Frank Sytner just managed to get the better of Hadfield in a closely fought battle with the lad changing hands many times. Denis Welch played a watching brief hoping that they would trip over each other and the final podium place was his reward for a fine drive.

Race 2 on the Sunday was held in dry weather although without the beautiful Ferrari 275LM of David Piper which had hit the barriers very hard indeed sustaining a lot of damage. John Bladon’s very pretty McLaren M1A had sustained front upright and wheel bearing breakage and was another non-starter.

The second race saw the staging of an old fashioned Le Mans type start with the drivers sprinting across the track before speeding off around the track. In fact they then stopped for seat belts etc before the start proper. Bob’s lap times for this event gradually improved – in fact every lap was faster than before and he finished a pleasing 9th. His best lap time was faster than the other Elva Mk7S of David Clark which was very satisfying. This race was won by Simon Hadfield just ahead of a heavily smoking T70 Lola with Denis Welch third again.

The mechanical report of the weekend was very impressive. The car only need petrol and oil (apart from the hastily applied tape on Saturday) and ran faultlessly. Top gear had been changed for the big long straight but in fact was two high with the car only pulling 6000rpm in top – about 1000rpm down on maximum. However it was decided to leave well alone especially in the greasy conditions of Saturday.

Overall the event was a great success – in fact the rumour is that they may repeat it next year, perhaps combining it with a trip to Korea the following weekend along with the F3 boys. Lets hope so as I remain very jealous indeed!

 

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