Friday, November 16, 2012

Haiku for the week

Speed, danger, and noise;
Smells of oil, rubber, metal.
Modern gladiators.

I happen to be down in Hong Kong for the week of the Macau GP. One of my unexpected vices is that I am a bit of a petrolhead, have been a motor racing fan since childhood. The Macau event is one of the most famous in the world, held on a twisty street circuit similar to Monaco. I've been wanting to go for years - and, finally, I am realising my dream.

I'll probably be deaf by Monday.


Froog said...

Actually, my Macau experience was a big disappointment.

Opting for the vaunted Lisboa grandstand was a mistake. That corner - a tight right-hander leading into an uphill straight, reminiscent of Monaco's Ste Devotte - is certainly fun: the track seems to have low grip here, and the cars often get very twitchy in the middle of the corner. Unfortunately, the positioning of the stand sucks: it's not really on the corner itself, but alongside the end of the preceding straight; and it's not offset at an angle at all, but parallel to the straight. Moreover, the track is so narrow, and the barriers so high, that - unless you're lucky enough to be in the front two or three rows, you can't see the cars coming down this straight: they hug the outside of the track, tight on the barrier, all the way down, and are completely invisible. And the stand is too far from the corner - unless perhaps you're right at the left-hand end of it - for you to see anything of the following straight up the hill. You basically get a one or two-second glimpse of the cars slithering through the apex of the corner, and that's it.

I suspect the much more open Reservoir stand gives a more extensive and satisfying view of the track. And it also has the advantage of being right next to the ferry terminal, so you don't have to bother about getting downtown.

I suspect, though, that this event just isn't that great a spectator experience anywhere. The view of the track - unless you're fortunate enough to have an apartment or a hotel room high above it, is always going to be extremely limited because of those high crash barriers. And the course doesn't seem that interesting, anyway: it's twisty, yes, but it doesn't seem to have Monaco's thrilling mix of fast and slow corners, nothing that requires quite the balls-out precision of the swimming pool complex.

Froog said...

I also had a lot of hassle just getting there. Traffic between HK and Macau was so heavy on the Sunday that I had to wait an hour or more for an available seat on the jetfoil ferry, and I was probably lucky to get a ticket at all - should have pre-booked, I suppose. The immigration hall on the Macau side was so maxed out in the morning that it took nearly an hour to clear. And then it took bloody ages to find the entry to the grandstand (because it was hidden underground, and there were NO SIGNS!). So, having aimed to be there by 9am, it was actually nearly 11.30 before I took my seat, and I'd missed almost all of the morning's action.

There was then a long, LONG break with nothing happening. (The Motorcycle GP appeared to have been rescheduled until the end of the afternoon. And I had to miss that, because the start got further delayed by a screw-up with the national anthems at the end of headline F3 race. Really - the winner was left standing around like a lemon on the podium for 15 or 20 minutes while they tried to find the right music! And it was nearly dark - and I was already back at the ferry terminal, watching it on TV - by the time the motorbike event finished.)

A few nices passes by the veteran Swiss driver Alain Menu in the second Touring Cars race (although two-thirds of it was run behind the safety car after various prangs) provided the day's only highlight.

The weather was horrible, too: cold, grey, and smoggy.

And I suppose the atmosphere may have been a bit subdued - although I didn't learn about this until the next day - by the fact that there had been some serious accidents, and a couple of fatalities, during the warm-up and qualifying sessions earlier in the week.

Still, I might give it a try again one day - if I happen to be in that part of the world one November when the sun's actually shining. Even the wrongly hyped Lisboa stand doesn't completely sell out, it seems; and the other stands are much more affordable, and you can just walk in on the day.