One of the most challenging race tracks on the planet awaits drivers from the FIA World Touring Car Championship when the wide-open title battle resumes on the streets of Macau from 16-19 November.
But as well as offering vital points, JVCKENWOOD WTCC Race of Macau forms the legendary Suncity Group Macau Guia Race, run for the first time in 1972 and won a record eight times by 2012 WTCC champion Rob Huff.
Back on the WTCC roster for the first time since 2014, the 6.120-kilometre Circuito da Guia challenges and thrills in equal measure. Blending twisty turns and narrow blasts with long, wide-open straights and sweeping corners, the demanding layout also contains a plethora of gradient and surface changes.
“There are circuits as challenging but there aren’t any as unforgiving as Macau,” said Huff, who made his Macau Guia Race debut in 2005. “Those who push the boundaries on every corner can get rewarded but it can also be a disaster. However, I’m massively excited to be going back, it’s a magical place and to have eight victories is something special. I want to build on that.”
While Huff has dropped out of the overall title fight in his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Citroën, factory Honda star Norbert Michelisz is in the thick of the battle, 16.5 points behind Polestar Cyan Racing’s Thed Björk, a Macau rookie.
“I won my first WTCC race in Macau in 2010 so I have some special memories,” said Hungarian Michelisz, the winner of the last round in Japan. “It’s a really challenging circuit, a bit like Nürburgring Nordschleife and driving on circuits like this is unique and something a racing driver looks for. The closer the race gets the more excited I get.”
Despite his absence of Macau knowledge, Sweden’s world championship leader Björk is unfazed by what’s in store when the WTCC returns to the Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China next week. “New tracks have been going quite well for me and my progress was quite fast in learning tracks. I hope I can also learn Macau fast enough.”
Björk’s Volvo-driving team-mate Nicky Catsburg can count on some Macau knowledge having contested the FIA GT World Cup in 2016. The Dutchman is 2.5 points behind Michelisz in the title standings. “It was actually quite scary going to Macau for the first time. Mandarin corner is so fast, really exciting and you have to be comfortable being close to the walls. I don’t feel I really know Macau because we had a lot of red flags last year but maybe I have an advantage over my Polestar Cyan Racing team-mates.”
Like Catsburg, Esteban Guerrieri has one Macau visit under his belt from the Formula 3 Grand Prix in 2007 when he took on current Formula 1 drivers Brendan Hartley, Nico Hülkenberg and Romain Grosjean. With Tiago Monteiro, the erstwhile title leader, still recovering from injuries sustained in a high-speed testing crash in September, Honda has once again called up Guerrieri as Monteiro’s stand-in after the Argentine impressed with a podium in Japan last time out when he pulled off the save of the season following an on-track clash with Björk. (Clickhereto watch the action).
“Macau is such an intense single lap for concentration,” said Guerrieri. “You have to go between walls on full power at 100 per cent, you give everything and even more to get the maximum out of the car. I like street courses and Macau is top of the street courses.”
It’s not just the FIA World Touring Car Championship for Drivers that’s still up for grabs: the WTCC Trophy for independent racers is a three-way fight between Mehdi Bennani, Tom Chilton and Huff, while Volvo Polestar and Honda are bidding to win the FIA World Touring Car Championship for Manufacturers. After 16 races, Volvo Polestar is on top by 46.5 points with a maximum of 117 available in Macau.
*WTCC JVCKENWOOD Race of Macau, the Suncity Group Macau Guia Race, will run to a new format with the Opening Race and Main Race taking place on separate days.
*The timetable adjustment will result in a more advantageous international broadcast slot for the Opening Race (due to begin at 14h10 local time, 07h10 CET).
*In order to give teams maximum opportunity to repair and ready their cars for Sunday’s Main Race, which is scheduled from 10h40 local time (03h40 CET), OSCARO Repair Time is unrestricted (it’s normally 20 minutes only with five of those minutes for refuelling).
*Nineteen-car entry is highest of 2017 and equals the previous TC1 record set in Japan last season.
*Double Guia Race winner Emanuele Pirro will be in attendance in his capacity as FIA WTCC driving advisor.
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*With Tiago Monteiro still recovering from injuries sustained in a high-speed testing crash in Spain back in September, Esteban Guerrieri has been called up to partner Norbert Michelisz and Ryo Michigami in the factory Honda line-up.
*Rob Huff will head to Macau fresh from contesting the penultimate round of the China Touring Car Championship at Wuhan where he will drive a SAIC V3 333Racing Lamando GTS.
*Zengő Motorsport, which guided Michelisz to a WTCC Race of Macau win in 2010, will enter track rookies Dániel Nagy and Zsolt Dávid Szabó, two rising stars from Hungary.
*Two Macau rookies also form part of the Polestar Cyan Racing works Volvo attack with Thed Björk andNéstor Girolamiracing in Macau for the first time.
*Macau-based Mak Ka Lok is back on WTCC duty for the first time since 2014. He completes the three-strong RC Motorsport attack alongside existing drivers Yann Ehrlacher and Kevin Gleason for his first taste of TC1 competition.
*Ehrlacher is the son of Cathy Muller, who was P12 in the Macau F3 Grand Prix in 1983, and nephew of Yvan Muller, a double WTCC Race of Macau winner and four-time WTCC champion.
*While Ehrlacher is a Macau novice, Gleason qualified second for the Macau Guia Race in 2015.
*Ma Qing Huabrings WTCC event-winning pedigree to Macau as the first Chinese driver to win an FIA world championship motor race. He will join Mehdi Bennani, Tom Chilton andJohn Filippiat Sébastien Loeb Racing in a fourth Citroën C-Elysée WTCC.
*Campos Racing has recruited WTCC newcomers Clerebold Chan Kin-Pong and Po Wah Wong to race its Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1s.