After winning the prestigious British F-3 title and impressing the F-1 world with his first test in the category (with a Williams, at Donington Park), Ayrton Senna still had to face a big and important challenge in 1983’s season: the Macau Grand Prix, which took place at the former Portuguese colony – now a Chinese special administrative region.
On the calendar since 1954, the race in one of the most challenging street circuits of the world was an important showcase for drivers who sought a place in Formula 1.
It was his first time with the quick F-3 cars in Macau, and Senna knew he had a good shot at winning – but he would have to overcome the fact that he had never driven on the 6.2 km circuit, with sections that were only 7 meters wide! The treacherous track is the reason why Macau is one of the most famous Grand Prixes in motor sports.
Besides, it would be “the first time in the race’s history that the best drivers of both the British and the European F-3 championships would go head to head in a single race”, as stated by the famous BBC Announcer Murray Walker before the 1983 Macau Grand Prix’s broadcast.
“It’s a very challenging circuit, with long straights, in which we’ll reach our top speed with an F-3 car this year – more than 240 km/h. And soon after you have to take it very slow on the hairpins. There’s no room for error, otherwise you crash. The weather is great, pleasant, like in Brazil”, said Senna before the race, also mentioning the physical difficulties he was facing after arriving on Wednesday and suffering severe jet lag.
On the previous Monday, the Brazilian had driven an F-1 Brabham at the Paul Ricard circuit, in France. After attending meetings in England, Senna could only make it to Macau on late Wednesday, early Thursday – on the eve of the first day of practices.
Driving team Theodore Racing’s Ralt RT3-Toyota, the Brazilian started the way he was used to: with the pole-position. By his side, on the first row, also driving a Theodore car, was Colombian Roberto Guerrero, who already knew the Macau track, having almost won there the previous year.Senna dominated the race and knew how to withstand the pressure from his more experienced teammate, Guerrero, who finished in second place. Rounding out the podium, another driver who would go on to F1 racing: Austrian Gerhard Berger. A curious story took place right after the race, still in Macau. Senna had the race’s fastest lap, but thanks to a mistake on the timesheet Berger took the prize, leading to an unforgettable situation for the Austrian driver.
“I remember somebody came to me and said that I had the quickest lap. So I looked at the data, and I realized it could not have been me. But anyway… that was it. In the evening I was at the party and suddenly Ayrton comes around the corner, and says: ‘You have the quickest lap time award but it is mine!’ I said, ‘ok, just take it, I don’t care’. That was the first conversation I had with him. He was very serious. And that was the first time I had a beer with Ayrton, that evening somewhere in Macau”, recalls Berger.
And so began a great friendship between the two drivers, who were teammates at McLaren from 1990 to 1992.”
source|photo: Ayrton Senna Official