According to that joker Michael Ballaban, touring car drivers, and I quote: “Should all be banned from all competition, of any sort, for all of time. No pie eating contests, no bar trivia nights, no dizzy-baseball, and certainly no WTCC.” Please.
Now Michael was talking about a specific event that happened a few years back in the WTCC race at the Salzburgring. But yours truly took it as a direct slap in the face to touring car drivers everywhere; that Ballaban was saying somehow, us touring car drivers weren’t man (or woman) enough to live up to his expectations of what race car drivers should be.
I am here to provide first hand proof that touring car drivers have some of the biggest, brassiest balls on the planet, and it’s the Ciruito de Guia at the Macau Grand Prix in Macau, China.
Why the Macau Grand Prix you ask? Well, pretty much everything.
Insanely fast, blind corners. Massively steep hills. No runoff. And the narrowest roads of any track, anywhere. Think the Nurburgring, mixed with a bit of Mt Panorama and a whole bunch of Long Beach. Oh and then drop the whole mix right smack dab in the middle of the Strip in Vegas. Sound fun?
Looks at it this way: the glorified goat paths that pass for roads around Macau are ridiculously narrow to begin with (as any roads would be that were designed around the same time Genghis Khan was kicking everyone’s asses.) But then, in the name of safety, the FIA said “Hey, let’s make it safer by putting massive guardrails everywhere to keep the cars from flying off track!”
Great thought, guys, but those same guardrails also serve to make an already narrow track several feet narrower pretty much everywhere.
If that’s not enough, the circuit also features the tightest corner of any circuit on the racing calendar: the Melco Hairpin. A turn so tight that only one car at a time can fit through it (and just barely at that). It’s so tight that it was decided to keep a permanent standing yellow (no passing) at the corner so that drivers wouldn’t attempt to overtake there and get stuck.
And speaking of getting stuck, any wreck on the circuit is likely to create a massive pileup as the road becomes complete impassible due to the width (or lack thereof.)
Hopefully now you can begin to understand a bit of the madness that is Macau.
Since 1972, touring cars have been one of the featured races here, and for several years Macau was the last stop on Mr. Ballaban’s buddies in the World Touring Car Championship calendar. But this year, the WTCC has been replaced with the new upstart series TCR International, although several WTCC stars have jumped ship and joined the TCR ranks specifically for this race.
The biggest of those stars is 2012 World Champion Rob Huff, aka The King of Macau. Five poles (well six if you count today) and seven wins to his name have earned him that regal moniker.
However, there is a new challenger to the throne! American Kevin Gleason beat Huffy in the first round of qualifying this morning, and was the only one to come close to making him sweat in the second round.
A very impressive showing from a virgin. (A Macau virgin that is. I’m fairly certain Kevin’s had sex before, but I wasn’t around to see it.) Kevin’s efforts had everyone in the paddock sitting up and taking notice. Newbies to Macau are not supposed to be sniffing around for a pole position—it’s more like trying not to end up in one of the circuit’s infamous walls.
Yours truly was mired in the midpack as brake problems made for slow going in both practice sessions and traffic and red flags made hard work of qualifying. It could be worse though. Of the 30 registered drivers 12 either crashed, broke or just failed to qualify. Thats how insane this circuit is.
So Ballaban, you still think us touring car drivers are cowards?
No matter your answer, I will admit there is one more group here that has even bigger, brassier balls then us touring car drivers.
They also race motorcycles here.
Photo Credit: TCR International Series
Watch the Suncity Group Macau Guia Race live streamed at the TCR website or on MotorsTV. First race goes off at 10:00 am local time.
Robb Holland races in the British Touring Car Championship for Rotek Racing. He’s a Jalopnik contributor who basically lives at the Nürburgring most of the year. He is also the tallest man in Germany.