For single-seater and GT racing aficionados, a painful four-year wait ends this week with the return of the FIA System 3 and GT World Cups to their rightful place on the Macau Grand Prix.
Whereas the occasion continued to run with native F4 and GT races even through the darkish days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it might be honest to explain it as a mere shadow of its former self. Now, with border closures and quarantine protocols however a distant reminiscence, the entry lists are stacked with worldwide expertise able to put every little thing on the road searching for success within the ‘Las Vegas of the East’.
In F3, there’s a powerful crop of younger expertise, most of whom have by no means skilled the streets of Macau owing to the pandemic, which ought to make the competition broad open. Against this, the GT entry record is rife with veterans desirous to profit from a uncommon likelihood to neglect about sharing a automobile with team-mates and go all-out in pursuit of particular person glory.
A kind of drivers is Daniel Juncadella, whose first journey to Macau was all the way in which again in 2010 with the Prema F3 workforce. A couple of of the drivers he raced in opposition to that yr – Edoardo Mortara, Laurens Vanthoor and Adderly Fong – are additionally on the GT entry record 13 years later, together with many others to have made their names on the well-known Guia Circuit.
Juncadella gained the Macau GP in 2011, and made three extra outings in F3 equipment earlier than his Macau GT debut in 2017. This yr is his first outing since then, as he joins Raffaele Marciello, Maro Engel and Jules Gounon in defending Mercedes honour.
“Once I heard Macau was coming again, there was no means I used to be going to overlook it!” beams Juncadella. “The environment round Macau is so thrilling. You’ve gotten this packed metropolis stuffed with skyscrapers and vivid lights, gamblers, there’s a variety of motion occurring… You get there and you’ll really feel the vibe.
“And the monitor structure itself is exclusive. For the final couple of years there hasn’t been a correct World Cup, however this yr we have now all the highest GT drivers on the planet once more. That makes it very particular.”
Photograph by: Drew Gibson / Motorsport Images
Juncadella, the 2011 Macau GP winner, is glad the occasion has recovered from its current COVID-enforced slumber
Though he’s now a manufacturing facility Mercedes GT driver – he will become a Corvette Racing racer next year – together with his single-seater days lengthy behind him, 32-year-old Juncadella admits: “In case you requested me which automobile I’d select to drive, I’d nonetheless select the F3 automobile to be sincere. Really, I requested one workforce in the event that they had been enthusiastic about having a driver with expertise. I assumed there was no hurt in asking. However then I used to be requested how a lot funds I had, so the dialog ended fairly shortly!”
Topping the F3 entry record is 2019 Macau winner Richard Verschoor, who’s one in every of a number of F2 drivers to step down a rung of the ladder for Macau, alongside together with his Trident team-mate Roman Stanek and Pink Bull junior pair Isack Hadjar (Hitech) and Zane Maloney (Rodin Carlin). Dennis Hauger can also be a late addition with MP Motorsport. Apart from Verschoor, solely three others on the entry record have Macau F3 expertise.
Two-time winner Dan Ticktum, who now races in System E, is again with Rodin Carlin as he goals to change into the primary three-time winner of the occasion in F3 equipment. The others are IndyCar rookie star Marcus Armstrong (MP) and present F3 racer Sophia Florsch (Van Amersfoort Racing).
Not all the 2023 FIA F3 area will likely be in motion at Macau, with champion Gabriel Bortoleto and runner-up Zak O’Sullivan two notable absentees. However race winners Paul Aron and Gabriele Mini (each Prema), plus Pepe Marti and Oliver Goethe (each Campos Racing) will all be current, together with a few intriguing additions corresponding to Euroformula Open champion Noel Leon (VAR) and McLaren junior Ugo Ugochukwu (Trident), who steps up as an F4 title winner.
“We’re used to sharing every little thing, however that is like being again to the single-seater guys the place your team-mate is your principal 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’m mates with each of them and I’ve carried out just a few laps with them on the simulator.” However, in terms of choosing a winner, he provides: “The blokes with expertise will likely be quicker to stand up to hurry. Verschoor and Ticktum would be the benchmarks.”
And what concerning the GT World Cup entry record? Whereas it might take a courageous particular person to wager in opposition to the star-studded Mercedes line-up, which options two former occasion winners in Marciello and Engel, BMW, Audi, Porsche and even Ferrari all have manufacturing facility aces lined up of their bid to knock the Three-Pointed Star from its perch.
Porsche is the very best represented marque with seven 911 GT3-Rs, and an equally spectacular line-up of expertise. The marque’s WEC Hypercar stars Laurens Vanthoor (who famously gained the 2016 occasion on his roof) and Kevin Estre are joined by Earl Bamber, newly topped DTM champion Thomas Preining, Alessio Picariello and Matteo Cairoli.
Photograph by: Mercedes AMG
Engel and Marciello contested the GT Cup race at Macau final yr when most stayed away, however the Mercedes duo can have robust opposition from inside their very own camp and past
BMW has M4 GT3s entered for 2018 winner Augusto Farfus and Sheldon van der Linde, whereas Audi can depend on ‘Mr Macau’ himself: Mortara, a two-time F3 winner in 2009-10 and a four-time victor in a GT automobile, to place the R8 LMS GT3 within the combine. Including further glamour is a sole Ferrari 296 GT3 entered for Brazilian Daniel Serra.
For Juncadella and his rivals, the GT World Cup is a uncommon likelihood to shine as a person. And the Spaniard is assured of a powerful exhibiting on his Macau return off the again of his current success within the Mercedes-AMG GT3 in GT World Problem and IMSA.
“That is actually a one-off, racing for your self, you don’t need to depend on others and you’ll show your velocity,” he asserts. “Not that many of the drivers must show something, nevertheless it’s good on your ego! We’re used to sharing every little thing, however that is like being again to the single-seater guys the place your team-mate is your principal rival.
“It’s going to be super-tough. However after two very robust years for me personally, I additionally really feel that it’s good timing for me to come back again to Macau. I’m feeling very assured.”
Photograph by: Alexander Trienitz
There are not any scarcity of top-billed GT aces aiming to seize the primary version of the World Cup held since 2019