Our own particular memories of Macau only go back to 2001, but that initial trip was enough to leave us with a lifelong enthusiasm for the place (we love street circuits and this one really does provide everything you could want from the wickedly...
Our own particular memories of Macau only go back to 2001, but that initial trip was enough to leave us with a lifelong enthusiasm for the place (we love street circuits and this one really does provide everything you could want from the wickedly tight Melco Hairpin to the overtaking opportunities on the run down to Lisboa). Watching Takuma Sato win the event was satisfying but it's probably what happened to Ant Davidson that is more apposite - the circuit bit him and he was carted off to hospital, only to determinedly discharge himself when the sounds of suffering from one of the other beds got too much for him. He would take no further part in the event, but spent the weekend mooching round the Carlin garage, wearing a surgical support collar and a pissed off attitude (photo)! Of course that was the year that Takuma thought it would be funny to hand us his trophy - they weigh a ton! Of course with his upper body strength it looked really easy. It was also the year that Bjorn Wirdheim decided he would accompany us to the prize-giving because we had a map... We had no more idea than he did where we were going, but that didn't deter him in the least.
A year later and we were treated to various sights, not least Robbie Kerr bouncing it off the barriers on his out lap at the start of the first free practice session. He spent the rest of the weekend playing catch up, which should provide a salutary lesson for this year's bunch. Keep it on the black stuff lads or you may as well go home! Mind you, in every single session (and in the race for that matter) Tristan Gommendy pinged the Armco at least once, even coming back on the breakdown truck on more than one occasion. It didn't stop him winning the race though. And he tried the "here, lift this trophy" trick on us but this time we were ready for it.
Then there was Narain Karthikeyan and the great SARS scare. It's fair to say that Narain has always been a bit of a worrier and a lot of a hypochondriac, but he wasn't well that weekend and eventually decided that he wanted to go home to his Mum back in India. He therefore left Macau - or at least tried to. It wasn't long before news of what had happened started to filter back however. Needless to say, given his record, most of us were unkindly amused when it turned out that he's triggered the SARS alarms at the ferry terminal and was instantly surrounded by bio-hazard suited officials, bundled into an ambulance and carted away. It turned out to be dengue fever so at least he was right that he did have something wrong with him. Narain actually was mightily quick round Macau, but he'd got this awful habit of crashing at Maternity Bend. There were suggestions it should be renamed Narain Bend after he'd pulled the same stunt three years out of three.
That's actually one of the things about Macau. If the organisers like you, you can keep coming back, as in the case of Paolo Montin, a man who has been damn close to winning the event more than once but never quite managed it despite having 5 shots at it, the last one ending with him being punted out of the lead; it left him a very tearful Italian who still feels he has unfinished business here. Probably the most entertaining year in many ways was the 50th Grand Prix running, 5 years back. One of the things that always happens is that the organisers run some sort of PR event on the Wednesday afternoon (everything from martial arts to calligraphy to pedicab races). These events are obligatory and three teams of six are selected from the F3 drivers, motorbike racers and WTCC drivers. For the 50th, however, they did things differently. At the annual food festival there was to be a world record attempt to bake the largest number of egg tarts ever. And all the drivers were to be there. Now quite aside from the difficulties of rounding up that number of drivers and getting them anywhere at the same time, there was the added problem that once they were there, and they had been dressed up in chefs' gear, and had filled the tart cases with custard and put them in the oven, they had nothing to do. There were still jugs of left over filling and there were buckets, and there was water. We don't need to draw you a picture, do we? Bruce Jouanny started it, is all we'll say, when he poured water into the top of Nelson Piquet Jr's hat, and then sauntered off, to be well clear of the area once it seeped through. However, Robert Kubica escalated it. That was a very big bucket and an awful lot of water. Quite who decided to cover Nico Rosberg with custard tart we can't say, but it might have been Lewis Hamilton.
Other snippets of memory include the remains of James Courtney the Monday after the race after a heavy night, pale, shaking and refusing to come out from behind his dark glasses. It was 10am when he walked back in. Presumably he didn't head for the hotel breakfast room and what he referred to as the weird-arse breakfasts. Then there was riding a mini-moke round the track with Charlie Kimball at the wheel, on the grounds that he was one of few drivers we would trust in such circumstances and even he tried to get the thing on two wheels round a roundabout. Then there was Robert Kubica getting behind the wheel of the bus when the driver who was supposed to be bringing us back from some celebratory event or other disappeared. In the end he decided he didn't want to be arrested for bus thievery, but for a minute there we were looking at quite an exciting lap! Mind you his most exciting lap may well have been run in 2004 when he drove the event for Carlin and came oh so close to victory. Of course 2004 was also the year when we were treated to the entertaining - for the spectators anyway - spectacle of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton both making a complete nonsense of it, and skating off at Lisboa in perfect formation. Just goes to show really that talent doesn't always guarantee results and even the best of us have off days.
Other current or soon to be F1 drivers have also provided memorable moments both on and off the track. When Heikki Kovalainen made his F3 debut here in 2001 the deal came together so late in the day that he had no time to study the track in advance. Thus he was suitably cautious when he went out, at one point realising he didn't know where he was on the track. It was just as well he backed off because "I wasn't where I thought I was." He managed to impress despite that. Off the track, Sebastian Vettel being a one man menace with a deadly aim with a bread roll probably won't surprise anyone, but we suspect that Bruno Senna getting so bored with the speeches at the post-race prize-giving that he threatened to cut his wrists with a dessert spoon might.
And one final word of warning. You do not ever want to find yourself sitting next to Fabio Carbone on a long haul flight. He will drive you crazy until he falls asleep, and then he'll drool on your shoulder for 9 hours.