Macau’s Guia Circuit awaits WTCC competitors at season’s penultimate race

  One of the most challenging race tracks on the planet awaits drivers from the World Touring Car Championship when the wide-open title battle resumes on the streets of Macau, from 16-19 November. Back on the WTCC roster for the first time since 2014, the 6.120-kilometer Circuito da Guia challenges and thrills in equal measure. Blending twisty turns and narrow blasts with long, wide-open straights and sweeping corners, the demanding layout also contains a plethora of gradient and surface changes.

In the current season’s WTCC Drivers title bid, factory Honda driver Norbert Michelisz is in the thick of the battle with only 16.5 points behind Polestar Cyan Racing’s Thed Björk. Michelisz will be determined to score a win or two to get right back on track this weekend, “I won my first WTCC race in Macau in 2010 so I have some special memories. It’s a really challenging circuit, a bit like Nürburgring Nordschleife and driving on circuits like this is unique and something a racing driver looks for. The closer the race gets the more excited I get.”

Facing his first ever race on the Guia track, Björk is unfazed by what’s in store. “New tracks have been going quite well for me and my progress was quite fast in learning tracks. I hope I can also learn Macau fast enough.”

Behind the two league leaders, the second Polestar driver Nicky Catsburg is in the hunt for the title, with only 2.5 points back from Michelisz. Catsburg has previously raced on the Guia track, having contested the FIA GT World Cup in 2016. Like Catsburg, Esteban Guerrieri has one Macau visit under his belt from the F3 GP in 2007 when he took on current F1 drivers Brendan Hartley, Nico Hülkenberg and Romain Grosjean. With Tiago Monteiro, the erstwhile title leader, still recovering from injuries sustained in a high-speed testing crash in September, Honda has once again called up Guerrieri as Monteiro’s stand-in after the Argentine impressed with a podium in Japan last time out when he pulled off the save of the season following an on-track clash with Björk.

It’s not just the WTCC drivers title that’s still up for grabs, the WTCC Trophy for independent racers is a three-way fight between Mehdi Bennani, Tom Chilton and former WTCC champion Rob Huff, while Volvo Polestar and Honda are bidding to win the WTCC for Manufacturers. After 16 races, Volvo Polestar is on top by 46.5 points with a maximum of 117 available in Macau.

The five Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs set to compete in Macau will run at the 1100-kilogram base weight. Designed to equalize car performance in the WTCC, the FIA’s compensation weight system uses a lap time-based calculation made following the previous two events, in this case China and Japan. After running at 40 kilograms in Japan, the French machines will carry zero compensation weight, which could prove advantageous on the challenging Circuito da Guia street track. Meanwhile, the five Honda Civic WTCCs will be 10 kilograms lighter than they were in Japan, going from the maximum 80kgs to 70. However, the three Volvo S60 Polestars driven by title leader Björk, Catsburg and Néstor Girolami will be saddled with the full 80 kg. The Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1s will continue to carry 10 kg, while the LADA Vesta WTCCs will run without added weight.

Ma Qing Hua will return to WTCC racing in Macau in a Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën. In doing so, he will revive a partnership that netted two victories including what was the first for a Chinese driver in a touring cars race. After making a winning start to his WTCC career in a Citroën C-Elysée midway through 2014, the 29-year-old tackled the full 2015 season, finishing fourth in the standings and adding a second win on the streets of Vila Real to his debut triumph at the Moscow Raceway the previous year. While he was entered under the Citroën WTCC banner, Sébastien Loeb Racing provided full technical support. And despite not having driven a World Touring Car in anger since November 2015,

Ma will be raring to go in Macau, the penultimate event of the WTCC season. “I’m very positive about this opportunity and really pleased to come back to this championship,” said the Chinese racer. “I have no downside on street circuits. When I raced in 2015 I won in Vila Real. Macau is a legendary place, an amazing city and I really appreciate the chance to do it again this year. It will take a little while for sure to get back into the rhythm but it should be fine and I still have a strong memory from those cars and I still have the feeling.”

Ma will form part of an expanded Sébastien Loeb Racing line-up in Macau that will feature title chasers Bennani and Chilton, plus young Frenchman John Filippi. And Ma is braced for the strong competition he will face as one of the most wide-open WTCC seasons for nearly a decade draws to a close on one of the most challenging race tracks in the world.