Macau GP: Event preview

Talent-Packed Entry for World Showdown It is rare that a rookie masters the demanding Guia Circuit on the first attempt, but in this year's Windsor Arch Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix, one driver may join the handful who have accomplished...

Talent-Packed Entry for World Showdown

It is rare that a rookie masters the demanding Guia Circuit on the first attempt, but in this year's Windsor Arch Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix, one driver may join the handful who have accomplished exactly that.

With a truly global field of drivers from Europe, South America, Scandinavia, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, the exciting entry once again attests to the popularity and reach of one of the most prized races on the international motorsport calendar. The drivers have spent the season competing in the world's leading Formula 3 championships, and the most successful in each will meet in Macau to decide the best of the best in the FIA Formula 3 Intercontinental Cup.

Coming into this year's race - the 26th edition of the F3 Macau Grand Prix, this year sponsored by Windsor Arch - two-thirds of the drivers will be newcomers to the challenging circuit, and one of them could join the ranks of those who have won at the first attempt along with the likes of Ayrton Senna (1983), Mauricio Gugelmin (1985) and David Coulthard (1991).

Frenchman Jules Bianchi and Finnish driver Mika Maki from the F3 Euro Series come to Macau each hoping to cement his name in motorsport history. Currently fourth and fifth in the standings, both are being touted to make a strong impression at Macau.

Twenty-year-old Maki is one of a three-car entry from Signature Plus, while Bianchi will race with ART Grand Prix at Macau. The Frenchman is the grandson of 1966 Macau Grand Prix winner Mauro Bianchi and the great-nephew of the late Formula One driver Lucien. Though from a family with a long motorsport history, Bianchi, 19, has come into his own this year, with a win at the Masters of F3 at Zolder.

However, stiff competition awaits. Other Macau rookies who could come on strong include Briton Oliver Turvey, a championship-contender in British F3, and series' rival Jaime Alguersuari of Spain. Both will be racing with Carlin Motorsport at Macau.

Newcomers from the Japanese series are Kaisuke Kunimoto, championship runner-up this season, who will race alongside newly-crowned champion Carlo van Dam for Tom's Team, Kei Cozzolino of Italy (NOW Motorsport), Koki Saga (Le Beaussett Motorsports), and Masaki Matsushita (Ombra Racing).

Chinese driver Frankie Cheng Cong Fu, on the Guia Circuit last year demonstrating an A1GP car, makes his FIA Formula 3 Intercontinental Cup debut this year, as does Basil Shaaban of Lebanon, demonstrating once again the truly international nature of the entry.

While the rookies remain and unknown quantity, the fact remains that the majority of Macau Grand Prix winners have taken more than one attempt to claim victory. These drivers, including multiple Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher - who took two attempts to take his 1990 victory - applied the invaluable lessons of Macau from their first year to go on and win in subsequent visits.

Those with previous Macau experience under their belts include 2007 podium finisher Kazuya Oshima, who is making his fourth visit to Macau having raced on the Guia Circuit in Asian Formula Renault as well as in the Grand Prix. The 21-year-old, who made the move to the F3 Euro Series this season having clinched the Japanese championship last year, partners newcomer Jon Lancaster and Sam Bird, a front-runner at Macau last year, in the three-car entry from Manor Motorsport.

Maki's season-long Euro Series rival Edoardo Mortara, 21, will be one to watch. The Italian returns to Macau once again with the Signature Plus team.

Also returning is Briton James Jakes, Bianchi's teammate with ART Grand Prix, in his third attempt at the Macau Grand Prix. Exciting New Zealander Brendon Hartley, a British F3 front-runner this season, and Marcus Ericsson of Sweden complete the four-car Carlin Motorsport line-up.

Brazilian Roberto Streit finished fifth in 2007, and the Formula Nippon driver returns to Macau for the third time, this year partnering Atte Mustonen of Finland and Macau's Michael Ho at Raikkonen-Robertson Racing.

No matter whether it is a driver's first or return visit, come November 15 and 16, there are reputations to be made. Given the level of competition and talent in the line-up and the challenge of the Guia circuit, whoever emerges on top will have staked his claim to be taken seriously on the world's motorsport stage.

-credit: macau grand prix committee

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Series F3
Drivers Michael Schumacher , David Coulthard , Basil Shaaban , Mauricio Gugelmin , Michael Ho , James Jakes , Sam Bird , Brendon Hartley , Kazuya Oshima , Oliver Turvey , Edoardo Mortara , Jaime Alguersuari , Jules Bianchi , Kei Cozzolino , Roberto Streit
Teams Manor Racing , Carlin