HONG KONG — Antonio Felix da Costa has added his name to the illustrious list of Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix winners, thanks to a stunning drive at the tricky Guia street circuit Sunday.
The Portuguese young gun, fresh from testing for crack Formula One team Red Bull Racing in Abu Dhabi, started the 15-lap Grand Prix from pole position. However, just like yesterday’s Qualification Race he found himself trailing Felix Rosenqvist on the run down to Lisboa on the first lap.
But a perfectly executed move into the right-hander saw the Carlin-Dallara straight back into the lead, and once there da Costa was able to control the race, a burst of speed following a mid-race restart setting him up for a historic win.
“Every lap we were on the limit,” said the winner. “I have to thank my team. They put this amazing package together. There are so many good names on the [winner’s] list, and my name is there too now. It was tight between all of us, but always fair, and I think we put on a really good show out there.”
Rosenqvist finished second, after taking the fight to da Costa right across the weekend. The pair was barely separated by more than a second throughout the race, with the final margin just 1.5 seconds.
Alex Lynn continued to be the best rookie in Macau, shadowing the leaders throughout the race to take a debut podium. But he wasn’t the only rookie to impress; young German Pascal Wehrlein drove a sensible race to cap off his first visit to Macau with a credible fourth place, holding off the more experienced Felipe Nasr, who returned to Formula 3 from GP2 just for this event.
Edoardo Mortara matched his two Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix victories with a second successive win in the City of Dreams Macau GT Cup, claiming victory after a strong challenge from Lucas Di Grassi in the Ferrari.
Although second across the line, Di Grassi was later ajudged to have jumped the rolling start and penalised 60 seconds. The penalty promoted Team StarChase driver Alexandre Imperatori to second, with Briton Danny Watts in the McLaren MP4 third.
Japan’s Akira Iida finished fourth in the second McLaren, ahead of Romain Dumas in the Porsche 911 GT3 R.
World Touring Car Championship
Alain Menu won the battle, but Rob Huff won the war as the 2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) season came to an exciting conclusion on the streets of Macau today.
After a race one crash cut Huff’s lead to 17 points heading into the final race of the year, the Chevrolet driver was simply looking to stay out of trouble. But those around him made it a genuine challenge, with two big crashes happening right in front of Huff’s bonnet. But while they were close calls, both crashes were ultimately beneficial for Huff.
When Alex MacDowell was pitched into the wall after Mandarin following contact with Yvan Muller, Huff made up a spot and got to ride out some of the race under Safety Car conditions.
Then, when Pepe Oriola and Norbert Michelisz crashed on the run into Lisboa, it not only elevated Huff to second place, but sparked a second caution period that would last until the checkered flag, giving Huff an easy passage to his first FIA WTCC title.
“What a mistake to make [in race one],” said Huff. “I promised myself I wouldn’t make the same mistake in race two. I knew after the first safety car that I was in a good position, so I took my time and made sure I didn’t hit any more walls. It’s going to take a while to sink in.”
While Menu had to settle for second in the title race, he did manage to finish his season on a high, winning what will go down in history as the last race for the factory Chevrolet team in the championship, the American brand not continuing with its program next season.
“I knew that my only chance was to win that race,” Menu said. “It’s a good way to finish the season.”
Yvan Muller won the opening Touring Car race of the day. Menu finished second, while Tiago Monteiro gave the new Honda Civic a podium finish, having shadowed the Chevrolets throughout the entire race.
Michael Rutter made history again in Macau with a masterclass display which gave the 40-year-old a record-setting eighth victory on the 6.2km Guia circuit against a strong field of more than 20 riders.
The win meant Rutter’s domination of the weekend was almost total, his name on top of every time-sheet bar one ending with a late afternoon victory which had never seemed to be in doubt since he rode out to first practice at 7.30 a.m. on Thursday morning on his SMT Honda.
His race was hallmarked by a fast start that never really saw him challenged until half-distance, when Martin Jessop recovered from a poor start to fight his way back to second spot, going from fourth to second in a single lap.
But Rutter was already too far ahead to catch, and though Jessop used the power of the Riders’ Motorcycles Ducati to full advantage on the long fast straights from the Melco Hairpin to Lisboa, Rutter’s mastery of the technical and challenging middle sector of the circuit won back more than he’d given away on the high-speed runs and he eased away from Jessop on every lap until the last, when he cruised home to an effortless win.
Simon Andrews claimed a strong third after some very racy laps early on, his best result in four visits to the Macau Grand Prix, provoking exuberant celebrations in pitlane from the Ice Valley BMW team.
Said Rutter after his lucky eighth victory: “The team gave me a brilliant bike. The crowds have been fantastic. I enjoy coming here and hope it will keep continuing.”