Macau Grand Prix newsletter 2009-09-26

Windsor Arch Returns as Macau Grand Prix Title Sponsor The Macau Grand Prix Committee is delighted to announce that Windsor Arch, a new benchmark in luxurious living, will be the title sponsor for the Macau Grand Prix for the second consecutive...

Windsor Arch Returns as Macau Grand Prix Title Sponsor

The Macau Grand Prix Committee is delighted to announce that Windsor Arch, a new benchmark in luxurious living, will be the title sponsor for the Macau Grand Prix for the second consecutive year. The official title of the November spectacular will be Windsor Arch 56th Macau Grand Prix.

For a full list of sponsors and the latest updates on new partners for this year's event, please check the official website at: www.macau.grandprix.gov.mo.

Winning Against the Odds

Last year Keisuke Kunimoto became just the second Japanese driver to win the Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix. Here he talks about what it meant to win the FIA Formula 3 Intercontinental Cup.

There were two historical odds stacked against Keisuke Kunimoto as he arrived in Macau for the 2008 Windsor Arch Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix. The first was that only a handful of drivers had ever won the Grand Prix on their first attempt, the second was that since 1983, only one Japanese driver had been victorious in the race.

Kunimoto, now 20, arrived in Macau as the runner-up in the 2008 Japanese Formula 3 championship, one place behind his TOM'S teammate Carlo van Dam. Van Dam was considered a frontrunner to win the race, while few had predicted Kunimoto's victory before he qualified third and then finished second in Saturday's Qualification Race.

In the Grand Prix itself, Kunimoto got off to an incredible start, getting away better than pole man Edoardo Mortara and setting the pace. While he would fight off Mortara for the remainder of the race, Kunimoto continued to lead the field, and when he took the chequered flag with a surprise victory, he became the second Japanese driver to win the Grand Prix (Takuma Sato being the other in 2001). He also joined just a handful of drivers, including Ayrton Senna (1983), Mauricio Gugelmin (1985) and David Coulthard (1991), to have won at Macau on their first attempt. He could not believe his result.

"I watched the old Macau races quite a lot and did a lot of image training in Japan," Kunimoto said recently, "But I never thought I would be in a strong position to win as it was my first time. I didn't think about winning or not. I just wanted to enjoy every lap of the race as usual. But, at the last corner, I felt I won."

Kunimoto said the response in Japan after his victory has been enthusiastic, with many Japanese drivers having attempted Macau but with just two attaining victory.

"Everyone in Japan was very surprised," Kunimoto said. "TOM'S is a really good team, but not many Japanese drivers had ever won before."

Inspired by his father Yoshihiro Kunimoto, who was the 1983 All-Japan Karting Champion and his uncle Yoshihiko Ri, a two-time champion in the same series, Kunimoto began karting at the age of 12. Although he loved the sport, at the time he didn't think he wanted to pursue a career in motorsport. Karting, Kunimoto said, was just so much fun.

But a scholarship from Toyota saw Kunimoto embark on a racing career, which began in 2005 with Formula Toyota. Now racing in Formula Nippon, Kunimoto's victory at Macau has been his biggest victory to date.

The surprise of the win and the elation that came with it was perfectly captured in a photograph of Kunimoto being lifted in victory by his team. On the seeing the image of jubilation, he had this to say: "The team was very excited when I came back. I was happy of course, but couldn't believe it for real. To be honest, I was rather relieved to have finished the race."

Kunimoto's 2009 season in Formula Nippon as part of Team Le Mans has been tough, although he is anticipating a better second half of the year. In June, Kunimoto competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Seji Ara and Sascha Maassen, winner at Macau in 1994, as part of Navi Team Goh in the LMP2 category, racing in a Porsche RS Spyder. While the team was forced to retire, Kunimoto said he enjoyed the experience.

"Le Mans was a wonderful experience for me," Kunimoto said. "Twentyfour hours is really long but the race is so exciting and intense like a sprint race. I would love to drive at Le Mans again."

But like any winner, Macau will always remain special for him. Immediately after his win last year, a stunned Kunimoto credited his team, TOM'S, for the victory - "the best in the world" as he described them. He feels the same way today, and with TOM'S having won the Macau Grand Prix in 2007 (with Oliver Jarvis) and 2008, completing the hat trick this year is not out of the question.

"I don't know if they will win a third year in a row," Kunimoto said. "But I am sure TOM'S is an awesome team. They have a lot of experience and know-how to win. This year, my brother Yuji is in Formula 3 and might be in the race, so I hope he will take the victory for TOM'S."

FIA WTCC Celebrates 5th Anniversary at Macau

Looking back on the first four years of a magical partnership

The 2005 arrival of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (FIA WTCC) at the Macau Grand Prix was cause for much celebration -- the storied Guia Race had joined with the world's premier touring car championship, further raising the prestige of one of the Grand Prix's three blue riband races. The 31- strong field from 11 different countries demonstrated the truly international nature of the series.

The season finale on the legendary Guia circuit fast became a fan and competitor favourite, with the drivers enjoying the challenge of their season coming down to the wire on one of the world's toughest tracks. The countless fans who traveled to Macau for the Far East Classic were also in for a treat as they were given the opportunity to watch some of the best drivers in the world compete in cars visually similar to those found on roads and highways the world over.

Fast forward five years and now, in 2009, the FIA WTCC is celebrating its fifth anniversary of racing at the Macau Grand Prix.

While many of the drivers had never driven on the Guia Circuit when they arrived in Macau, there were some who had already achieved tremendous success here. Macau driver Andre Couto, Rickard Rydell and Jorg Muller had all won the Formula 3 Grand Prix at Macau, while Dutchman Duncan Huisman was a three-time winner of the Guia Race.

In its inaugural year, it was Briton Andy Priaulx who took the championship crown racing for BMW Team UK. Dirk Muller came to Macau leading the championship, but Priaulx landed on pole.

Macau fans also had something to celebrate, with Andre Couto qualifying second fastest and landing himself a place on the first row of the grid.

Priaulx's season-long consistency paid off as he was awarded his first FIA WTCC title after finishing second on the podium twice in Macau that year. Moments after his victory, Priaulx said: "It is really just a strange feeling at the moment. Macau is so special."

Indeed, Macau would become a special place for Priaulx as he was to twice repeat his 2005 success.

In 2006, numerous drivers were in contention for the championship meaning that just about anything could happen. But it was Priaulx who rose once again to the top, qualifying quickest and putting himself in the best position to defend his title. Dirk Muller qualified alongside Priaulx, with Yvan Muller third fastest.

Priaulx led the first race from lights to chequered flag, putting him and German manufacturers BMW one step closer to a second consecutive championship. Priaulx's BMW teammate Jorg Muller won Race 2, after getting off to a great start, while some of the other contenders had their hopes dashed after succumbing to the unforgiving Guia Circuit. Yvan Muller and Tom Coronel took the other two podium places, while Priaulx's fifth-place finish was good enough to take home the ultimate prize -- a second FIA WTCC Championship.

The following year proved to be another banner one for Priaulx and BMW as they took a third consecutive championship. Heading to Macau, Priaulx and Yvan Muller jointly topped the leaderboard. It was Alain Menu, however, who qualified on pole, with Muller in second and Gabriele Tarquini third. Priaulx qualified twelfth.

Priaulx was victorious in the championship after two dramatic action-packed races which saw Yvan Muller's leading car suffer a broken diesel pump on the penultimate lap of Race 1. From that moment, it was Priaulx who had the advantage, finishing eighth in the race giving him pole position in Race 2 on the reverse grid, as well as a one-point advantage heading into the final round of the season. In true winning fashion, Priaulx cemented the championship by winning the second race.

Said BMW motorsport director Dr. Mario Theissen after the win: "It has certainly been the most competitive season so far. However, Macau always brings something special and we pushed until the chequered flag."

Last year, as the FIA WTCC raced at the Macau Grand Prix for the fourth year, it was, for once, not Priaulx in the championship title battle, but Yvan Muller and his SEAT teammate Gabriele Tarquini. Alain Menu took pole, while Muller was given a big boost towards winning his first FIA WTCC championship when he qualified third.

Muller sealed the championship in Race 1, with his third place finish giving him enough points to clinch his first FIA WTCC title. The races, however, belonged to Chevrolet, with drivers Menu and Robert Huff victorious in both races.

"One year ago exactly I came here and was very sad," said an elated Muller. "Finally one year later I am here on top of the world."

Indeed, the magic of winning at Macau continues.

Youth or Experience?

When it comes to the spectacular Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix, which is more valuable? The energy and courage of youth, or the wisdom and knowledge which can only be earned by experience?

Two years ago, a then 21-year old Conor Cummins arrived at his first Macau Grand Prix. The young, lanky and (most importantly) promising Manxman was the youngest rider in the field. The 54th Macau Grand Prix saw the debut of Cummins and 22-year old Briton Martin Jessop. The pair were the youngest competitors going against riders with an average age of just over 32.

While Cummins finished an impressive fifth, it was the 35-year old Steve Plater who took home the ultimate prize.

But Cummins returned the following year and, in 2008 at age 22, he broke the qualifying lap record to take pole position for the race. Sadly, Cummins suffered a mechanical breakdown on lap eight while it looked like he could have been a podium contender. Instead, a young 25-year old named Stuart Easton made his mark, winning his first-ever Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix, having made his debut aged 19.

Over the 42 editions of the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix, winners of all ages have stood atop the podium of what is considered by many as the toughest road race in the world. Since 1981, the average age of the winner has been almost 31. Of course, you'd have to take into consideration that Ron Haslam and Michael Rutter each won six Macau Motorcycle Grands Prix during this time, and obviously with each win they were a year older!

Nevertheless, Haslam was just 25 when he won his first Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix in 1981, while Rutter was just a year older -- 26 -- when he took his first win in 1998. But with winners' ages averaging almost a decade more than that at which Cummins made his debut, the question remains: when it comes to Macau, is it the courage of youth or the wisdom of the experience that gives riders the ultimate edge?

Rutter will be 37 when he competes at the 43rd Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix this year and attempts to break the record he shares with Haslam for the most number of wins. While Rutter will be competing alongside many riders who are the same age as when he won his first Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix, one cannot discount the experienced Briton. Then again, the spirit of youth is also something to contend with.

The Flying Dutchman

The Macau paddock is full of personalities, and they don't come much bigger than self-confessed "Macau addict" Tom Coronel

Tom Coronel has done pretty much everything there is to do in Macau, except win one of the big races. The genial Dutchman has been a regular visitor every November since his debut in the Formula 3 Grand Prix in 1995. The record books reveal that Tom (at right with twin brother Tim) completed precisely zero laps in his debut race, but it was the start of a romance with the city that has no sign of ending. Even after he graduated from Formula 3 and before beginning a career in touring cars, Tom would still pitch up in Macau each year, doing commentary work, seeing old friends and making lots of new ones.

Since that debut, Tom has completed plenty of laps of the Guia Circuit and is quick to admit that it ranks as his favourite track: "Macau is the most challenging circuit I have ever driven," says Coronel. "There is no room for a mistake on a street circuit and the barriers create an 'inside feeling'. On a street track, the advantage of a more powerful car is negated, and even if you don't have a super powerful car, it's more of a driver's circuit and that can make all the difference."

Whilst the track is clearly a favourite, Coronel is also a huge fan of the offtrack activities in Macau. Every November sees a large contingent of Dutch fans head East for one last taste of motorsport action before winter sets in and almost without exception, they are cheering for Tom. In addition, Tom has a huge local fan base, built up from the years he spent racing in Japan plus his infectious enthusiasm for racing at Macau -- and having a good time there.

Trying to put a finger on what makes Macau so special he says: "The atmosphere is different from anywhere else. For everyone, Macau is fresh - it's not really anyone's 'home' race, so there is less tension between the drivers. The evenings in Macau are the best of anywhere we race - it's the Las Vegas of the East. The restaurants, bars, the lights, the atmosphere, together with the best hotels of anywhere we travel. It feels like a bit of a holiday as it's the end of a year's work, so there is a sense of relief, and that's why the after race parties are always the best."

And the word 'party' is as synonymous with Tom Coronel as awesome on-track performances. Whilst no one would ever dispute his serious credentials as a top-line racing driver, his attitude to life off track is refreshingly positive: "You need to be serious, but have fun on the outside. I'm normal, I don't carry over the rivalry when we're not on the track, and I'm not a marketing machine like some of the F1 drivers. After the racing, the other drivers are my friends." In what should be a mantra for everyone, Tom adds with a smile: "One day with no fun is a wasted day!"

What about those two Macau races that got away - the 1997 Grand Prix and 2001 Guia Race - which on both occasions, Tom had sewn up? "Those two races hurt the most and they are the ones I would want to do again if I could. In the 2001 Guia, I just had two laps to go and hit the wall. In the '97 Grand Prix, I was unbeatable, I was so much faster than everyone else. On both occasions, I gave the trophy to someone else."

With all of this year's races seeing plenty of drivers making their Macau debut, Tom's mental approach to the Guia Circuit is worth noting: "You have to know the handling of the car and how you can play with it. I drive on the snow in winter and learn how to play with every situation. You can't be afraid, and on a street circuit, you must only look at where you want to be, not where you don't want to go, otherwise you will go there and on a street track, that's the wall. I drive Macau in my mind, I make notes and I know every bump."

Watch out for the No.21 SEAT Leon whenever the FIA WTCC cars are on track - it may not be a factory car and it's run by the little SUNRED team, but look out for Tom out and about Macau during the weekend. You can't miss him - he's the one with the big smile, the life and soul of the party and a man truly out enjoying his favourite track.

Know Your Racing: Equipment

A racing driver and motorcyclist's uniform is often pretty easy to discern -- racing leathers or racing suits resembling outfits from the space age are adorned with bright sponsor logos. The competitors sport their requisite helmets, which offer essential protection and, with the visors down, almost complete anonymity.

Recognition aside, the race suit is one of the most crucial aspects of motorsport, specially designed and made with highly sophisticated materials which protect against fire (or in the case of the riders, the track and barriers!).

The purpose of the all-important crash helmet is to protect the human head and decrease the impact on the scalp, skull and brain in the event of a crash. In the event of a crash, the helmet not only protects against external impacting objects, but also internal brain tissue. Comprised of four major components, an appropriately-fitting helmet is essential.

The outer shell is most often constructed from thermo-injected plastic or a reinforced resin material known as fiberglass. The outer shell protects the shock-absorbing inner shell against penetration, abrasion, impact and weather conditions. The inner shell fits the outer shell exactly and its main function is to protect the head against impact. Chin straps also have built-in safety feature and need to be properly fastened before a race. The fourth component is an absorbent inner lining, which is designed to "breathe" and help disperse moisture. This is an important component because effective ventilation helps reduce fogging on the inside of the shield and provides fresh air.

After a helmet come the suits. Needless to say, the drivers in Formula 3 wear completely different suits to those competing in the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix. The motorcyclists wear racing leathers which are made to measure to provide better ease and comfort. For racing, all riders where one-piece leathers and no skin is visible except for the neckline below the crash helmet.

Genuine leather has been used for protection against burns and abrasions, but technological advances mean that there are some plastics which provide high levels of protection. The leathers are triple-stitched for strength and have small ventilation holes.

On the other hand, racing drivers wear suits made up of fire-retardant materials, such as Nomex and must comply to strict FIA regulations. In addition to the suit, there are fire-retardant gloves, long underwear, balaclavas, socks and boots to protect them in case of a fire.

Over the years, the motorsport industry has greatly improved its management of the threat of injury from flash fires and racing apparel is a big factor. Nomex, for example, has flame resistance built into its fibers, meaning that it actually thickens when exposed to heat and forms a barrier between the skin and the heat. It also will not sustain combustion in air or melt when exposed to flames.

One way to further enhance safety on-track is to wear multiple layers of fire-retardant clothing. For example, the long johns are an important base layer as they cover the driver from neck to wrists to ankles.

Motorcycle riders have other important protection, including a back protector which fits under the leathers and protects the rider's backbone, back and ribs. It distributes the forces generated in an incident over a wider surface area.

Shoes and boots are also crucial equipment. Riders wear boots made of leather or leather substitutes and are tall enough to cover the shin area and contain both shin and heel protection.

-credit: macau gp

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