Formula 3 teams shocked as Macau Grand Prix organiser pulls out

Formula 3 teams have been left shocked by developments in the organisation of the category's biggest race, the Macau Grand Prix

Formula 3 teams shocked as Macau Grand Prix organiser pulls out

Barry Bland, whose Motor Race Consultants company has coordinated the race since it became an F3 event in 1983, notified the teams earlier this week that he has withdrawn from Macau organisation with immediate effect.

The closing date for entries is Friday September 9, but as of Thursday September 8 teams had not yet received the sporting regulations.

It is understood that Bland drafted these, as usual, in April, but that five months later they have not been released to the teams.

Up until 2015, Bland negotiated with the Macau Grand Prix Committee, but this was disbanded and has been replaced by Macau's ASN (the AAMC) and the Macau Sports Bureau, which coordinates all sport in the city.

The FIA has also become more heavily involved in organisation of Macau, and it is now up to the sport's governing body and the AAMC to approve the regulations before release to the teams.

Prema Powerteam boss Rene Rosin, whose squad won the Macau GP with Felix Rosenqvist last season and is backed by the Theodore Racing organisation of Teddy Yip Jr - whose late father is renowned as the Macau GP godfather - told Autosport: "Clearly when we received the email from Barry it was a shock - he has been the key in putting everything together for Macau.

"We had noticed something was going on because we are very late in receiving information for this year.

"I'm trying to get some more information from the FIA to understand what's going on, because it's important for our organisation."

T-Sport chief Russell Eacott added: "Barry's the go-to guy - if you have a problem you go and see him; they're big shoes to fill.

"We've got only a few weeks until the freight's going [in the first week of November], so time is short."

Indications are that a freight agent has still not been appointed, with estimates that logistical preparations are running two months late.

Bland told Autosport: "The way we're now being asked to operate is not very satisfactory for us.

"Everything is running very late, there are a lot of unanswered questions and I don't wish to put our reputation on the block for something we're not happy with."

According to sources, the FIA is rebranding the race, possibly as the F3 World Cup, although the overall race weekend will remain the Macau GP.

This is in line with discussions earlier this year to introduce a world series for the category, which for 2017 could be a double-header of Macau and one other event.

MRC will continue with its other affairs, which include coordinating the Masters of F3 at Zandvoort and motorsport insurance.

AUTOSPORT SAYS...

Barry Bland isn't a name that resonates greatly with motorsport fans - he's a quietly spoken, undemonstrative and seemingly unflappable chap who goes about his business with a minimum of fuss.

But (and he'll probably cringe when he reads this) the 70-year-old is effectively the Bernie Ecclestone of the Macau Grand Prix, a man who transformed the event from a hot-potch Formula Atlantic race to the world's biggest junior single-seater race, with Ayrton Senna winning its first running as an F3 event in 1983.

The headline act each year is putting the entry list together: that's no small task, as late dropouts usually mean even later replacements.

When drivers or teams are struggling to get a budget, Bland's network of predominantly local sponsors can help them out - 2014/15 winner Felix Rosenqvist, for instance, owes two of his Macau participations to these contacts.

But the real hard work lies in the logistics, from getting the cars freighted to sorting deals whereby all team personnel are accommodated together in the gigantic Rio hotel - just one of those touches that make Macau more than just a race, but an end-of-season party.

As Bland told me: "This was a difficult decision - the race has run like a Swiss watch for 33 years.

"It was dead on its feet when we picked it up, and had no international recognition at all, and in a very short time it was established globally and gave great exposure to Macau."

As far as the logistics are concerned, Bland - who was the initial head of the FIA Single Seater Commission - added that the local ASN has already been handling this for the Motorcycle Grand Prix.

"I don't know what the politics are but we have to continue the best we can with the organisers," said T-Sport's Russell Eacott.

"I'm sure it'll all pan out OK because it's such a well-worn route, as long as they don't try to change everything.

"But it's such an epic to do Macau - the carnets, the hotels, even radio licences."

With the sporting regulations still to be released, it is unclear whether all the entries that have been posted can be accepted depending on any moves the FIA may make to restrict participation from drivers deemed too experienced.

"We just have rumours," said Prema's Rene Rosin.

In the meantime, the Commission's Frederic Bertrand is understood to be in Macau on Thursday, and his return to Europe will be eagerly anticipated by the European championship teams, some of which are gathered at the Nurburgring for this weekend's round.

What is clear is that a job previously handled by one vastly experienced man - via his liaising with the Macau GP Committee, teams, drivers and sponsors - is going to be incredibly tough for anyone who replaces him, whether that's an individual or a consortium of people.

That's what makes Bland the Bernie of Macau...

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