Subscribe

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe

How Macau's long awaited return is shaping up to thrill

COVID meant the Macau Grand Prix has been a local event for the past three years. But now the F3 and GT internationals are returning to the awe-inspiring Guia circuit, which has attracted a star-studded entry list once again

Start action, Jüri Vips, Hitech Grand Prix leads.

Start action, Jüri Vips, Hitech Grand Prix leads.

Alexander Trienitz

For single-seater and GT racing aficionados, a painful four-year wait ends this week with the return of the FIA Formula 3 and GT World Cups to their rightful place at the Macau Grand Prix.

While the event continued to run with local F4 and GT races even during the dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be fair to describe it as a mere shadow of its former self. Now, with border closures and quarantine protocols but a distant memory, the entry lists are stacked with international talent ready to put everything on the line in search of success in the ‘Las Vegas of the East’.

In F3, there’s an impressive crop of young talent, most of whom have never experienced the streets of Macau owing to the pandemic, which should make the contest wide open. By contrast, the GT entry list is rife with veterans eager to make the most of a rare chance to forget about sharing a car with team-mates and go all-out in pursuit of individual glory.

One of those drivers is Daniel Juncadella, whose first trip to Macau was all the way back in 2010 with the Prema F3 team. A few of the drivers he raced against that year – Edoardo Mortara, Laurens Vanthoor and Adderly Fong – are also on the GT entry list 13 years later, along with many others to have made their names at the famous Guia Circuit.

Juncadella won the Macau GP in 2011, and made three more outings in F3 machinery before his Macau GT debut in 2017. This year is his first outing since then, as he joins Raffaele Marciello, Maro Engel and Jules Gounon in defending Mercedes honour.

“When I heard Macau was coming back, there was no way I was going to miss it!” beams Juncadella. “The atmosphere around Macau is so exciting. You have this packed city full of skyscrapers and bright lights, gamblers, there’s a lot of action going on… You get there and you can feel the vibe.

“And the track layout itself is unique. For the last couple of years there hasn’t been a proper World Cup, but this year we have all the top GT drivers in the world again. That makes it very special.”

Juncadella, the 2011 Macau GP winner, is glad the event has recovered from its recent COVID-enforced slumber

Photo by: Drew Gibson / Motorsport Images

Juncadella, the 2011 Macau GP winner, is glad the event has recovered from its recent COVID-enforced slumber

Although he’s now a factory Mercedes GT driver - he will become a Corvette Racing racer next year - with his single-seater days long behind him, 32-year-old Juncadella admits: “If you asked me which car I would choose to drive, I would still choose the F3 car to be honest. Actually, I asked one team if they were interested in having a driver with experience. I thought there was no harm in asking. But then I was asked how much budget I had, so the conversation ended pretty quickly!”

Topping the F3 entry list is 2019 Macau winner Richard Verschoor, who is one of several F2 drivers to step down a rung of the ladder for Macau, along with his Trident team-mate Roman Stanek and Red Bull junior pair Isack Hadjar (Hitech) and Zane Maloney (Rodin Carlin). Dennis Hauger is also a late addition with MP Motorsport. Besides Verschoor, only three others on the entry list have Macau F3 experience.

Two-time winner Dan Ticktum, who now races in Formula E, is back with Rodin Carlin as he aims to become the first three-time winner of the event in F3 machinery. The others are IndyCar rookie star Marcus Armstrong (MP) and current F3 racer Sophia Florsch (Van Amersfoort Racing).

Read Also:

Not all of the 2023 FIA F3 field will be in action at Macau, with champion Gabriel Bortoleto and runner-up Zak O’Sullivan two notable absentees. But race winners Paul Aron and Gabriele Mini (both Prema), plus Pepe Marti and Oliver Goethe (both Campos Racing) will all be present, along with a couple of intriguing additions such as Euroformula Open champion Noel Leon (VAR) and McLaren junior Ugo Ugochukwu (Trident), who steps up as an F4 title winner.

"We are used to sharing everything, but this is like being back to the single-seater guys where your team-mate is your main rival. It’s going to be super-tough" Dani Juncadella

Juncadella says he’s “personally cheering on the Spanish guys – Mari Boya [another F3 regular, driving for MP] and Marti. I am friends with both of them and I’ve done a few laps with them on the simulator.” But, when it comes to picking a winner, he adds: “The guys with experience will be faster to get up to speed. Verschoor and Ticktum will be the benchmarks.”

And what about the GT World Cup entry list? While it would take a brave person to bet against the star-studded Mercedes line-up, which features two former event winners in Marciello and Engel, BMW, Audi, Porsche and even Ferrari all have factory aces lined up in their bid to knock the Three-Pointed Star from its perch.

Porsche is the best represented marque with seven 911 GT3-Rs, and an equally impressive line-up of talent. The marque’s WEC Hypercar stars Laurens Vanthoor (who famously won the 2016 event on his roof) and Kevin Estre are joined by Earl Bamber, newly crowned DTM champion Thomas Preining, Alessio Picariello and Matteo Cairoli.

Engel and Marciello contested the GT Cup race at Macau last year when most stayed away, but the Mercedes duo will have strong opposition from inside their own camp and beyond

Photo by: Mercedes AMG

Engel and Marciello contested the GT Cup race at Macau last year when most stayed away, but the Mercedes duo will have strong opposition from inside their own camp and beyond

BMW has M4 GT3s entered for 2018 winner Augusto Farfus and Sheldon van der Linde, while Audi can rely on ‘Mr Macau’ himself: Mortara, a two-time F3 winner in 2009-10 and a four-time victor in a GT car, to put the R8 LMS GT3 in the mix. Adding extra glamour is a sole Ferrari 296 GT3 entered for Brazilian Daniel Serra.

For Juncadella and his rivals, the GT World Cup is a rare chance to shine as an individual. And the Spaniard is confident of a strong showing on his Macau return off the back of his recent success in the Mercedes-AMG GT3 in GT World Challenge and IMSA.

“This is really a one-off, racing for yourself, you don’t have to rely on others and you can prove your speed,” he asserts. “Not that most of the drivers need to prove anything, but it’s nice for your ego! We are used to sharing everything, but this is like being back to the single-seater guys where your team-mate is your main rival.

“It’s going to be super-tough. But after two very strong years for me personally, I also feel that it’s good timing for me to come back to Macau. I’m feeling very confident.”

There are no shortage of top-billed GT aces aiming to capture the first edition of the World Cup held since 2019

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

There are no shortage of top-billed GT aces aiming to capture the first edition of the World Cup held since 2019

Be part of Autosport community

Join the conversation
Previous article Top five roles on Motorsport Jobs this week
Next article What is the Macau Grand Prix and which F1 stars have won there?

Top Comments

There are no comments at the moment. Would you like to write one?

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe