The twelfth and final round of the FIA WTCC will take place on Macau’s legendary street circuit.
After a weekend in Japan, the FIA WTCC returns to China for the last round of the season. The Macau Grand Prix has been an unmissable event in world motorsport since 1954. And, in addition to the F3 race – which helped bring the talents of Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher to wider attention – the FIA WTCC has staged a race there every year since it was revived in 2005.
A circuit drivers love
Yvan Muller won six races in the streets of Macau between 2008 and 2013. Last year, after the craziest of days, he even managed to win both races. “This circuit has often been kind to me, but I’ve also experienced major disappointments there, like in 2007, when I lost the title by breaking down on the last lap,” recalls the four-time World Champion.
“There’s nowhere quite like it. It’s got so many qualities. In the space of a few kilometres, we will have to contend with both the quickest bend and the slowest hairpin of the season. I think it will also be the fastest circuit of the year in terms of top speeds,” Yvan explains. “Macau requires more commitment at the wheel than any other circuit.
It’s always hard to compare rallying and track racing, but it’s probably the closest to what I’m used to!
Unlike on most street circuits, there are real overtaking opportunities. The key is the Mandarin Oriental Bend. You have to go through it as fast as you can in order to build momentum before braking at the Hotel Lisboa. It’s tight, but we can’t afford to make any mistakes. Macau is also one of the most dangerous circuits…”
Full of fascination and respect for the 6.12 km Guia Circuit in equal measure, Yvan also enjoys the atmosphere in the city: “Macau is Asia’s gambling capital. Las Vegas is minuscule in comparison! When night falls, thousands of lights illuminate the city, which just adds to the sense that everything here is done on an unbelievably huge scale. Racing in these conditions is always a unique experience.”
Sébastien Loeb aiming for victory
Like his teammates and rivals, Sébastien Loeb will be racing to win. Having already made it onto the top step of the podium twice this season, the most successful rally driver of all time will be looking to finish 2014 on a high.
“I took part in a race in Macau last year, to prepare for this year,” he explains. “I found it a fun circuit. There’s a really fast section along the seafront, then a winding, hilly sequence, with testing combinations, crossroads, and the famous Melco hairpin. It’s always hard to compare rallying and track racing, but it’s probably the closest to what I’m used to! More than ever, qualifying will be crucial if I want to have a chance of coming out on top. I’m really keen to round off my first FIA WTCC campaign with a good result.”
Yvan Muller and Sébastien Loeb go into this last meeting thirty points apart, so the two men from Alsace will be battling it out for the Championship runner-up spot!
Pechito on clound nine!
Having led the standings from the very first qualifying session, José María López has kept his nerve throughout the season. Six pole positions and nine race wins were enough to see the Argentine driver clinch the title in Suzuka. Since then, he has been on cloud nine: “Every morning, I wake up with a big smile on my face. I’m really enjoying life right now, while trying my best to reply to all the congratulatory messages and media attention.
In Argentina, because it’s been such a long wait since Juan Manuel Fangio’s last title, it’s caused a real craze. I also know that lots of people were touched to see the whole Citroën Racing team wearing my country’s colours. I was really emotional myself at the end of the race, when I saw everyone wearing those blue and white shirts!”
Despite not being familiar with Macau, Pechito will be aiming to produce a performance worthy of a champion: “At the start of the season, the team and I were in the same boat. We were both starting out in the discipline and we couldn’t set any specific goals. Everything has gone brilliantly, and we have managed to rack up plenty of victories and two world titles. I will arrive in Macau in a relaxed frame of mind, but I know what I’m like. Once I’m in my Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, I will want to give 100% and perform as best I can.”
Pechito can set his sights on the record for most points scored in a season (433 by Yvan Muller in 2011), as well as the record number of race wins in one year, which he already shares with Yvan (who won 9 races in 2012).
Having raced in Moscow, Spa, Beijing and Shanghai, Ma Qing Hua will complete his 5-race programme in Macau. After winning in Russia and making it onto the podium in China, the driver of C-Elysée WTCC n°33 will be another man looking to round off his season in style: “I can’t wait to take part in this major Asian event, and I’m proud to be ending the championship with the Citroën Racing team. It’s always difficult to know what to expect on this kind of circuit, but I hope to produce the same level of performance I managed in Shanghai.”
The final meeting of the season will begin with a first session of free practice on at 7.15 a.m. on Thursday 13 November. A second session will follow in the early afternoon, at 1.55 p.m. On the Friday, a third session will be held at 9.25 a.m., in preparation for qualifying at 3.10 p.m. After a rest day on the Saturday, the two races will be held in quick succession on the Sunday, at 11.15 a.m. and 12.30 p.m. Macau’s time zone is GMT+8, meaning that the races will get underway at 4.15 and 5.30 a.m. French time.
* Subject to official publication of the results by the FIA.