…Comes with new safety measures

66th Macau Grand Prix Special | Co-ordinated by Sérgio Fonseca

FIA F3 World Cup

Sophia Floersch’s dramatic high-speed crash from last year is still very fresh in everyone’s memory. In order to accommodate the more powerful Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix – FIA F3 World Cup racing cars, the Macau Grand Prix Organizing Committee (MGPOC), along with relevant government departments, have been working closely with the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) to ensure the 6.2km Guia Circuit was successfully upgraded to an FIA Grade II homologated track this year.

Over the winter, the FIA Circuits Commission carried out a circuit simulation exercise. Based on the results taken from running the current circuit format in a computer simulation, the Guia Circuit will be enhanced accordingly this year. Following the recommendations of the FIA, upgrades were carried out at the São Francisco Bend, Reservoir Bend, Mandarin Oriental Bend, Lisboa Bend, Guia Hill areas and ‘R’ Bend.

Intended to absorb and reduce kinetic energy during the impact of a high-speed crash and, thus, lessen injuries sustained to drivers or spectators, USA-made Steel and Foam Energy Reduction Barriers (SAFER) barriers were installed in the Reservoir and Mandarin Oriental bends. Developed by Indycar and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, the SAFER barriers were designed to reduce the severity of impacts by IndyCar cars, one of the most effective safety measures taken in the racing industry in recent years.

One of several updates to the 6.2km circuit was the re-profiling of the barriers at the Lisboa corner following Sophia Floersch’s crash last year, where she brutally hit the photographer’s bunker. The run-off area was enlarged and the photographer’s bunker moved.

A few changes were made in areas of the Guia Hill, with the tire barrier at Police Bend being prolonged into the Moorish hill zone. Additional impact protection Tecpro foam barriers, that were seen in the Guia Circuit before, at Fisherman’s Bend, were added at the “R” Bend (T23). The last barrier was extended by another 15 meters in length in the direction of the finish line. The Tecpro barriers validated by FIA were also added at the San Francisco Bend.

Additionally, electronic flags, introduced for the first time in the Singapore Grand Prix in 2008, will be implemented this year to complement manual colored flag signals traditionally waved by race officials to communicate with drivers. The electronic flag system does not replace the work of marshals, who will remain present in the same numbers. As safety comes first, not only for the drivers and riders, the width of the marshals’ windows around the circuit was also reduced to one-meter.

At the same time, MGPOC entrenched the training sessions for local officials and scrutineers, FIA seminars and rescue training. “We implement this programme every year so our colleagues may practice their skills”, said Chong Coc Veng, MGPOC Coordinator Sporting Subcommittee, during a press conference in September. “The Grand Prix is an annual event, so this training ensures our colleagues receive up-to-date knowledge to enable them to perform their tasks in a professional and efficient manner”.

It’s a given that all motorsports are dangerous, and the breathtaking Guia Circuit has its reputation, but it is firmly down to the governing bodies to ensure the drivers and riders can race in the least possible dangerous manner. However, one thing is for sure – here in Macau, over the past few years, big efforts have been put in place to minimize the risks without compromising the show and the nature of this unique circuit.