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Macau - The F3 race that built two legends


With the 63rd running of the Macau Grand Prix next weekend (18-20 November), take a look back at the historic first running of the Formula 3 race on the Guia circuit as victory for Ayrton Senna paved the way to Formula 1 stardom

FIA, Motorsport, Mobility, Road Safety, F1, WRC, WEC, WTCC, World RX

Formula 3 made its debut at the Macau Grand Prix in 1983. An auspicious moment for the event on its 30th anniversary, the ’83 GP graduated Macau from Formula Atlantic to F3, increasingly the precursor category to a Formula 1 seat.

Commencing the BBC television package, Murray Walker set the stage.

“Let me start by confidently proclaiming that this, the 30th Macau Grand Prix, is going to be the very best ever in the long history of this series,” he said.

The FIA F3 race posed an end-of-year challenge for the leading drivers from British, Continental and Japanese F3 championships.

The change of category realised the Macau GP organisers’ ambition of bringing to the Guia street circuit an annual showcase of global motor sport talent: a race where future legends could be spotted as they negotiated their rise from karts to bedroom posters.

The ’83 race was littered with drivers months from their lights out debut in the World Championship. The 25-strong grid featured names that would soon penetrate the mainstream – Gerhard Berger, Eje Elgh, Martin Brundle, Tiff Needell and Vern Schuppan.

Off the back of his British F3 Championship (conquering a rivalry with Brundle said to have prepared the Brazilian for his rivalry with Alain Prost), Ayrton Senna arrived late to the unfamiliar Guia street circuit, flying in from testing with Brabham F1 at Paul Ricard.

Senna told Murray Walker that he enjoyed the challenge of the Guia circuit.

“I think it is a very challenging circuit. You’ve got very straight line speed. I think the fastest ever in F3, around 150mph, then suddenly you have to go really slow on the tight bends on top of the hill. You are not allowed for a little mistake at all, otherwise, you crash.”

On track Senna was unfazed, claiming pole for Theodore Racing. Resting Saturday, Senna was in peak form for the two-stage 15-lap race heats on Sunday.

Losing the start of the first race to more experienced Grand Prix Driver Roberto Guerrero, Senna executed a pass that left the Columbian in awe, drawing a six second lead.

A 2005 article by Motorsport Magazine interviewed Guerrero about the pass, the last Senna made for the race weekend.

“I jumped Ayrton at the start and coming out of Statue [Lisboa] he came past me so fast I didn't know whether I was standing still. I was blown away… Obviously he was an unbelievable talent and it was actually cool to be so close to him."

Driving as ever to prove a point, Senna’s consistency on the fast, narrow and winding Guia circuit defied belief; his times falling within 0.5 seconds of each other as he led the grid, unrelenting in his pace.                                                                                         

Senna’s not-yet-trademarked seriousness was evident as he spoke with media following the event.

“The car was fantastic… My team has worked very hard. They gave me a fantastic car and we won.

“This time I got a good start, leading on the first lap, then took it easy to try to open a gap just to be safe.”

Having auditioned for multiple teams in 1983, at the time Senna was unsure when questioned of a start in the Formula 1.

“No I haven’t heard anything, hopefully when I get back to England by mid-week we will have good news.”

Four months later Senna started the 1984 World Championship at Jacarepaguá Circuit in Rio de Janeiro in the Toleman-Hart TG184.

The following years saw many of the 1983 Macau GP grid graduate to F1 or go on to Le Mans victories and dominance in other categories. The rite of passage through the Guia Circuit remains, with 15 of the 22 drivers on the 2016 F1 grid having raced Macau.

The Macau Grand Prix’s status was elevated to that of a must-watch for motor sport fans and the most important F3 race on the international calendar, challenging Monaco for street circuit supremacy.