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Macau: The Track, The Weekend, The Place

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Perhaps it is a little lost on European audiences, especially those who are casual motorsport fans and barely glance at the sport beyond two hours of F1 on a Sunday.

Perhaps it doesn't help that as soon as I tell you it's a street track you begin to imagine Monte Carlo with the glamorous yachts in the harbour with the glamorous people on board. A Monaco track that is lauded as the best street track for racing and the best venue for racing in the world.

But Macau isn't just one place, it seems to a sort of split personality, hanging off China, and all you imagine China to be, but with all the riches you expect of Las Vegas or even, dare I say it Monte Carlo, with several of the famous Las Vega Strip resorts having twins in Macau.

And just like the land it sits on, the Guia circuit is not just one track.

It is many.

It is both Le Mans and Pau. It is both fast and slow, wide and insanely narrow. It is clad by ribbons of metal but still finds the space to blast down two sides of a reservoir.

The lap, deceptively short at only 3.8 miles, is perhaps more varied than any other track in the world.

Starting on the southern edge of the reservoir glances first left the right through wide sweeping bends, the car blaring at full throttle for nearly 30 seconds allowing competitors to draft up and possibly pass each other. However, a mistimed move can have serious consequences, with the high speed and the metal barriers always willing to end a race.

At the end of the straight lies a near-90 degree right handed – Lisboa. It is undoubtedly the best overtaking opportunity on the track, but again, one false move can end the race, with a car spun at Lisboa more than capable of blocking the track for those following.

Coming out of LIsboa and the next right hander – San Francisco – the track climbs uphill, though a fast set of weaving curves, passing within touching distance of towering wall through Maternity Bend and the Solitude Esses and on up the hill.

Then the circuit reveals its party trick – the Melco Hairpin. Everyone knows the hairpin at Monaco is tight, but Macau's is tighter. Drivers swing all the way out to the left before slicing back with every available inch of steering to the right, a move that the drivers of the bigger GT cars during the weekend scarcely seem to manage.

And that is another area where Macau is incomparable to anything else in the world.

Where else would F3, Formula BMW, WTCC, GT3 sportscars and bikes share the same weekend on the same track?

It is the F3 race, called the Macau Grand Prix, and the Guia Race, which forms the finale of the WTCC which inevitably gain the international attention, thanks to the multi-national fields and the varied series the entrants represent, but Western names are also to be found in the other races, Danny Watts is once more entered in the GT3 race (alongside could-be Lotus driver Alex Yoong) while the 1000cc bike race will see familiar road racing names such as John McGuinness and Michael Rutter as headlines acts.

Action at Macau starts tomorrow (Thursday) and runs until Sunday, with Eurosport showing the the WTCC races. The rest of the European TV coverage is, unfortunately, very sketchy.

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