Get to the finish, with the Audi R8 LMS intact, in the Top 10. That was Vincent Floirendo’s mission when he entered the famed Macau Grand Prix last November 11/12. And we’re happy to confirm that it was mission accomplished for the lone Filipino driver on the GT3 grid.
This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for GT3 AM drivers to compete around the Guia Street Circuit and Vincent simply couldn’t pass up on the opportunity. With the help of B-Quik Absolute Racing, he was able to take his #55 ENSport Audi R8 LMS Evo II to the 70th anniversary of the one of the most historic street races in the world. Although the event comes with A LOT prestige, racing around the 6.273 km circuit around Macau does come with its own set of challenges.
Apart from the complex layout, tight turns, and the armco barriers that line the track, drivers were only given a single 30 mins Free Practice session to master a lap around Macau. That’s too short especially for a first timer like Vincent who described his exploratory laps as “scary” and “intimidating.” It was good that he managed to keep his #55 Audi R8 LMS off the walls, but wound up close to the end of the timing sheets.
“The Macau Guia Street is a lot narrower than Bangsaen in Thailand. Marina Bay in Singapore is also much wider in comparison,” he emphasized on difficult it really is to drive here.
“Turn 1 is a fast 5th gear left hander that leads into Mandarin bend which can be taken flat out in 6th and reach a top speed of around 260 km/h. It’s a blind corner and to be honest, I was lifting at times as I’ve seen a lot of big crashes around that turn,” Vincent recalled. “Then you brake hard into a tight right hander Lisboa. It’s actually a tricky corner where some drivers overshoot including me. I was just lucky that I was able to catch the car when it happened to me during Qualifying and incurred only minor scratches on the Audi R8.”
The session was riddled with several stoppages due to cars that were stranded on track. But despite the lack of run time, Vincent was able to shave over 8 secs from his fastest lap. Still, it was nowhere close to the front runners who were comprised of Silver-rated drivers accustomed to Macau.
“Sectors 2 and 3 gets very tight up there. All corners are blind where you have to commit at every turn to get good lap times. You won’t see if someone spins or crashes on the other side, so you need to pay attention to the marshals and flags on every corner,” he added on the risks of racing at this street circuit.
Starting the 8-lap Race close to the back, however, does present some benefits at Macau. Vincent took a cautious approach at the start and allowed the roaring grid of GT3 machinery fight for position. As expected, several drivers got stranded at Lisboa on very first lap and allowed Vincent to move up to P11. After spending several laps behind the Safety Car, the race was eventually green lit once again and became a 4 lap sprint to the finish. Vincent maintained composure and stayed out of trouble until the chequered flag dropped, improving another place higher as more cars retired in the wall, to finished in a hard-earned 10th place.
Coming from a very memorable 70th Macau Grand Prix, Vincent now has his eyes set on the Thailand Super Series’ (TSS) season finale next month. He and Markus Winkelhock currently leads the Supercar GT3 standings and will aim to take the title at the Chang International Circuit.
Vincent Floirendo: “The team’s target was to finish the race, with the Audi R8 intact, and in the Top 10. Mission accomplished I’d say. I would love to race at the Macau Guia Street Circuit again if given the chance. This is one of the best and most famous road courses in the world. A good number of Formula 1 drivers from as far back as the ’80s and ’90s have raced here and of course our very own Dodjie Laurel in the ’60s. It’s a proud moment to be the first Filipino to race here in a GT3-spec car.”
[Photos by Matt Romualdez]