Jordan King proved himself to be the fastest draw in the east with a stunning first appearance in the prestigious end-of-season Macau F3 Grand Prix – setting three laps beyond the reach of any of his rivals as he raced to a superb top five finish and rookie honours.
There, the gifted young Warwickshire ace would pit himself against not only 27 ultra-competitive adversaries – the indisputable crème de la crème – but also the legendary 3.8-mile Guia Circuit itself, feared and revered in equal measure and which truly plays to the strengths of those already well-acquainted with its nuances and intricacies. Narrow, bumpy, invariably spectacular and anything but ordinary, it poses the ultimate test as arguably the most demanding street circuit in the world – and one around which speeds reach an eye-watering 175mph.
Talent is a pre-requisite, but so, too, is luck, as an entire weekend’s hard work and success can be instantly undone by just a split-second lapse – or that of somebody else. As a measure of the calibre of the event, past winners include the likes of Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher – and this 60th edition promised to be as fiercely-contested as ever.
“People warned me beforehand, ‘don’t go there for the first time expecting to do anything special’,” King revealed, “but right from the word ‘go’, we were pretty quick. It’s such a challenging track layout, but enormous fun to drive. There’s no margin for error anywhere – every single mistake is punished – and that makes it a massive learning curve.
“It’s not even a question of trial-and-error, because whilst you can have the trial, you’re not permitted the error! You normally ascertain the limits by going beyond them, and at most circuits you will get away with it – but in Macau, you don’t have that luxury. You need to build up your confidence to really push because the closer you get to the walls, the more grip you find. It’s all about unleashing your inner daredevil...”
The rapid Stoneleigh-based hotshot discovered the hard way just how unforgiving the Guia Circuit can be in Thursday’s practice session, clattering into the barriers after finding himself caught out by rain and admitting that ‘everybody in the team had said to me, ‘whatever you do, don’t crash because what you need most of all is mileage’, so I was really kicking myself because it definitely put us on the back foot a little’.
Conceding valuable track acclimatisation and car set-up time, it was far from an ideal start, but King’s Carlin mechanics performed miracles to repair his Volkswagen-powered Dallara single-seater ahead of the first qualifying session the same day. After intelligently making the most of the knowledge of his team-mates – four of whom had competed in Macau before, with Red Bull Junior and World Series by Renault front-runner António Félix da Costa the defending race-winner – he went on to repay their efforts in style.
Swiftly regaining his composure and reprising his impressive progression, the former McLaren Autosport Award finalist bounced back immediately by lapping 13th-quickest on old tyres before improving to ninth the following day, in front of some big-hitters indeed and maturely maintaining his cool amidst the chaos in a disjointed session punctuated by a succession of red and yellow flags that made it impossible to settle into any kind of rhythm.
Reflecting that ‘it was a good lap and I hit every apex, but the car wasn’t dancing – we knew there was plenty more left in the tank’, King was as good as his word in the ten-lap qualification race, gaining a couple of spots to take the chequered flag a strong seventh, right in the wheeltracks of the driver ahead. He would begin the all-important 15-lap Grand Prix the next day from the same position.
“There was a safety car period early on,” the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) SuperStar and MSA Academy member recalled, “and after the re-start, the three cars in front of me looked like they were getting just a little too close for comfort. Macau’s long main straight really spawns slipstreaming opportunities, and if I was a betting man, I would have put money on them coming together.
“I hung back slightly at a safe distance and sure enough, next time around, they went three-abreast into Turn One and all ran wide on the exit, enabling me to pick up the pieces. At that point, I was about five seconds behind the next driver up the road, but I pushed as hard as I could and had closed to barely a second adrift by the end. The last three laps were just mega, so much fun, letting the car slide sideways and really attacking and brushing up against the walls. I felt so completely relaxed, and as confident as I ever have.”
Winding up an excellent fifth, less than ten seconds shy of victory after almost 40 minutes of racing, King was the second-highest Carlin finisher and crossed the line ahead of many far more experienced contenders. What’s more, he posted not only the fastest lap – by more than three tenths of a second – but indeed the fastest three laps, including the best of anybody over the whole weekend. The leading rookie throughout, it was a fitting manner in which to wrap up what has been an outstanding debut season in F3 in 2013.
“I really enjoyed my first Macau Grand Prix,” the 19-year-old Hugo Boss brand ambassador enthused. “The race has a magical appeal and I’m very pleased with our performance. It was such a boost to beat the standard of drivers that we did, and the pace we had by the end was amazing. It was the perfect conclusion to an extremely positive first year in F3 – the icing on the cake.”