Macau GP

After Winning the National F3 class I managed to get myself an invite to the 56th Macau Grand Prix, I never expected my season to finish off by going to Macau and to drive on a street circuit. The chance to race the international car for the first time was a great prospect and a great experience for next year but I certainly couldn’t have thrown myself in the deep end any more than this.

After watching many hours of on-board footage of Macau and getting used to the layout I realised this was going to be a very difficult learning experience but really thought the prospect would be fantastic and couldn’t wait to get there. Before I went out to Macau I trained for the heat and humidity of what was expected out there, so went to Birmingham University to make good use of their heat chamber and also stepping up my regular training.

When I finally got to Macau the weather wasn’t quite what I expected and I was a little shocked to find out it was the coldest November on record! I spent the days running up to the first test session going through various plans and ideas of what I should do out on circuit as well as general set-up work. The time seemed to go on forever and the more I waited the more I got impatient as I just wanted to go out on circuit.

The format of the weekend was Thursday- first practice and first qualifying, Friday- second practice and second qualifying, Saturday- qualifying race and morning warm up and then finally on Sunday the main feature race.

First practice came round and after a briefing on how important it was not to crash on the very narrow street circuit and get as many miles in as possible I decided to make my all-time worst error and turn in a little too late into Lisboa corner and ended up getting onto some dust and unclean circuit which guided myself nicely into the nearest barrier. To say the least I felt embarrassed and pretty annoyed that I only did 2 laps of the first session. After cooling down and realising that this was my first self-produced crash and mistake of the year I best had get on with the rest of the weekend.

Going into the First Qualifying I found trying to get up to speed was pretty difficult due to the lack of laps done on the circuit and the lack of knowledge of the tyres and car, but increased my speed gradually and made sure I stayed out of the barriers. I stayed out for the whole 45 minute qualifying session and managed to get into 26th place.

The second Practice was 30 minutes long and I stayed out the whole time again to try and get as much knowledge and time in the car as possible as this was still my first race meeting in the international car. I produced a better lap time as I gained more confidence, and the second qualifying meant a better opportunity for the qualifying race the next day. In the second qualifying I stayed out for the whole session again and improved on my overall lap time and managed to equal my grid slot from the first quali which was 26th place.

For the first race on Saturday morning I had a lot of work to do and as long as I improved my lap time and position wise I would be in for a great shout for the main race on Sunday. The race arrived and after changing set-up on the car for the first time this event I made sure I knew what I had to improve on to progress further. After the warm up lap I prepared for a decent start and by doing so hoped to make some lost ground up by the first corner.

I made a decent start to the race and avoiding a crash from my team mate Jake I followed the pack into the bottle neck corner of Lisboa and got caught out by the lack of room on the entry and lost the rear end of the car over some of the bumps under the braking zone. After narrowly avoiding Henry Arundel in the first corner and spinning I had more ground to make up as I had lost a few places after a decent start.

Chasing the pack down I continued to push and battle with various other cars that had either out-braked themselves into corners or managed to catch up to pack. An accident forced the safety car out for a long duration and the race ended up finishing on the safety car.

I finished in 25th place which wasn’t as good as expected but an early mistake caused this problem. I improved my lap time and had a brand new set of tyres for the main race the next day so had great hopes in mind. The whole event had been going more difficult than thought but as a first time driving round Macau I expected to be off the pace and also learning a new car was always going to be difficult.

The morning warm up on Sunday went very well improving once again on my overall performance and lap time and closing the gap considerably to the leaders. I had good hopes of the race and due to the nature of the final race there was going to be quite a few incidents that hopefully I would gain from. I would have liked to finish in the top 15 realistically and with a shout of a top 12 if my luck was with me. After walking round the grid and watching the ceremonies that go on before the race begins I fired myself up and remained mentally in the zone for the last time I would be in a car until next year.

After the warm up lap the start begun and I made a poor start off the line losing some places down to the first corner but thinking there was a long race ahead anything could happen. The worst case scenario happened when one of the front running drivers tangled with the brick wall after a very fast corner and spun in front of the rest of the pack, the majority of the grid made it through but as I came round the corner the entire road was blocked and I unfortunately had nowhere to go, I ended up running in the back of my team mate Jake out of all people and shortly followed by another car choosing me as their target and destroying the remaining un-scuffed piece of wing left on my car at that time.

In the end, it turned out that the carnage totted up to an 8-car pile-up. Shame to say my debut in the international car came to a disappointing end and left me with a decent amount of crash damage but at the end of the event a great experience and a lot learned. I hope to continue the success from this year into a series that is decided by sponsorship and if possible a win in the Fortec car next year in the British F3 International series if all goes to plan.

Many thanks to all that have supported me this year it is much appreciated – here’s to much of the same success next year.

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