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Guia Circuit - Felix on the secrets of Macau street racing

The Macau Grand Prix - the main highlight of the Formula 3 season, and the race which helped propel the likes of Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel onto the world stage. Ever since the first edition of the F3 Macau Grand Prix in 1983, the Asian classic has constantly managed to gather the category's international elite for an annual showdown in the heart of the former Portuguese colony - and 2011 is not going to be an exception.

For Felix - who is set to make his second appearance on the Macau grid following his eye-catching debut performance last year - preparations are now well underway for an event which resembles no other on the calendar, and which leaves no room for mistakes between the unforgiving Armco barriers squeezed in among luxurious five-star hotels, gigantic casinos and inescapable pawnshops in the Las Vegas of the Far East.

As part of the build-up to the race on November 20, Felix has taken some time off to bring us a bit closer to the driving seat through his own take on the venue where the battle for glory will eventually be staged - the Guia Circuit. This is the result - Felix's personal guide to the most technical sections of one of the most difficult circuits on the globe...




Turn 2 (Mandarin Oriental Bend)

A very fast sweep, taken flat out in sixth gear at approximately 250 km/h. One of the greatest speed sensations of the entire season.  


Turn 3 (Lisboa Bend)
This is the place most people will be talking about throughout the weekend. Thanks to the huge straight that leads into Lisboa, this is Macau's number one overtaking spot - and if you manage to get a good tow on the car ahead of you, speeds can reach a full 280 km/h before you arrive at the braking zone. A very tight corner, which is negotiated in second gear. This is the bottleneck you have to survive on the opening lap of the race, and there is plenty of history from here from years gone past…
 
 


Lisboa Bend


Turn 4 (San Francisco Hill)
A sharp right-hand kink where you release the throttle for a few fractions before getting back on it again. This corner looks very tight on entry, but it really opens up on the way out. This is one of the places where it's absolutely vital to be as close to the wall as possible.


Turns 6-7 (Maternity)
The braking for Turn 6 is one of the key sections of the circuit; there is a lot of time to be found there, and it's often possible to go much quicker than you first think. A fun combination of corners, where the "run-off area" on the exit of the final right-hander consists of a solid concrete wall which you have to run extremely close to if you want to be on the ultimate pace.


Turns 9-10-11 (Solitude Esses)
This section begins with an ultra-quick right-hand kink, which is heavily banked on the inside but has a lot of negative camber on the outside. That means that it's easy to lose grip if you mess up on turn-in, which I got to experience first-hand last year when I hit the wall here during the Qualification Race - fortunately with only minor damage to the suspension as a result. The subsequent sweeps are some of the nicest of the circuit; the track is very narrow, and if the balance of the car is good enough, it's possible to take the "S" curves completely flat in fifth gear (at approximately 190 km/h).


Turn 16 (Melco Hairpin)

The most famous spot at Macau, next to Lisboa Bend. This is as tight as it gets anywhere in the world, with a circuit width of only seven meters and a 180-degree hairpin to steer around. Melco is a legendary corner taken in first gear – something unique in the world of Formula 3 racing – and with a minimum speed of only 40 km/h! This corner sports constantly waved yellow flags, meaning overtaking is forbidden since there simply isn't enough room for two cars to go side-by-side through this section of the lap. Ahead of the race weekend, teams re-build the steering systems on their cars exclusively to enable us to even make it around Melco without running out of road.


Melco Hairpin


Turn 17 (Fishermen’s Bend)
One of my favourite corners. The braking zone is very uneven – you can hardly see anything at all due to all the bumps! Fishermen’s Bend is much faster than you might first think, and it's important to hit the apex in order to maximise acceleration down to the final corner. Here, you can really feel the wall approaching quickly in front of you on the exit.


Turn 18 (R Bend)

The final, and possibly most important, corner of the entire lap. If you do a bad job on the exit, you run a big risk of losing not just one, but three or four, positions on the long stretch down to Lisboa. With this in mind, R Bend traditionally lends itself towards many incidents as drivers push a bit too hard - and most of the time, even the slightest of mistakes here will end up in disaster.



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