Macau winner is too close to call

This year's Macau Formula Three Grand Prix - held on one of the world's toughest street circuits - looks like being the most open for years due to the absence of the British and German champions and a spate of driver movements between teams

Macau winner is too close to call

France's Jonathan Cochet (Signature Dallara-Renault) is looking to add the Macau trophy - previously won by Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard - to the French title and the other one-off events he won at Pau and the Marlboro Masters. The French attack is bolstered by Sebastien Philippe (ASM Dallara-Renault), who won the Japanese title for the Dome Project team this year.

The man he beat to that crown is Austria's Robert Lechner, who is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Darren Manning and Peter Dumbreck by winning the race for the TOM'S team. But the Japanese outfit's Toyota engines were beaten to the domestic title by Mugen Honda - and British Championship front-runner Takuma Sato is the favourite of many pundits for victory, especially as he swaps his regular Mugen for a works-tweaked version in his Carlin Motorsport Dallara.

Carlin has also signed quick Indian Narain Karthikeyan, who jumps ship from Stewart Racing which has decided to skip the Far Eastern event. His British Championship team-mate, series runner-up Tomas Scheckter, has switched to Swiss Racing Team alongside former F3000 driver Alex Yoong.

After an all-British scrap for victory between Manning and Jenson Button last year, only two Brits drivers are entered this time. Andy Priaulx steps into British champ Antonio Pizzonia's shoes at Manor Motorsport, while Ben Collins moves from Carlin to RC Motorsport.

"RC have given me a great opportunity to race here and I wouldn't really have been able to race otherwise," said Collins, who last raced at Macau in 1997. "I think this year is special because there are more quick cars than ever before with quick guys driving them - it will be a real race."

Prost's F3000 racer Andre Couto, who was born in the former Portuguese enclave, has a better chance than even alongside Red Bull Junior Team's new signing Patrick Friesacher at the crack Bert Schafer Racing team.

Others capable of springing a win include Gianmaria Bruni (Fortec Dallara-Mugen), former Italian champion Peter Sundberg (Prema Dallara-Opel) and Ryo Fukuda (Promatecme Junior Team Dallara-Renault).

For full Ben Collins Q&A on the trials of Macau, click HERE.

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