Friday, 16th November 2007 – Macau, Day 6
Again we went out to take photos on a corner, though this time we took all our kit to the press office first. Then we grabbed the first available press shuttle bus and went to Hospital Hill, somewhere neither of us had been before. We got there just in time to see that the session was going to badly delayed because one of the locals in a touring car category we couldn’t quite understand had ground to a halt in the middle of the track and then promptly and dramatically caught fire.
It all got quite entertaining as the rest of the runners had to squeeze through, and then the fire couldn’t be contained using the extingushers available. A rescue vehicle was summoned, as was a car load of officials, all the marshals from the post where he’d stopped, from the next post up the hill, and eventually also from the one beyond that as well (they all came running brandishing brooms – it put me in mind of some sort of alternative oriental marshal art), two tow trucks, Old Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all.
Frankly, it was surprising it got cleared away as quickly as it did. The session got started about three minutes late, which was just as well because the sun was really beating down out there. The sensible people were the various hospital patients, some of them in wheelchairs, who were sitting on the grassy bank above the track eating their lunch and watching the crazy Westerners. It’s actually very pretty up there, with lots of tress, a lovely little pond full of some sort of black fish (koi perhaps – I don’t know), and lots of flowers. It’s just that you have to walk through the hospital entrance and past casualty to get there.
Oh, and there seems to be a public path down the side of the track leading back towards the Lisboa, at least if the bloke walking his dog and the little old lady with the bag full of shopping didn’t just vanish into thin air. It’s a terrific place to take photos, because you’re above the cars, looking down on them, so there are some interesting things you can do. I’d really like to go out there with a fish-eye lens next year.
Anyway, once that was over, we did our usual retreat to the press office to watch the second (and final) qualifying session, but not before Sam Bird had bounced at me, delighted at actually managing to finish a session under his own power. It’s fair to say that he hadn’t had the best of days on Thursday. At least things were now starting to improve. Anyway, as I said, we watched qualifying from the press office, because we have to be somewhere where we can see a timing screen, and – if they’re available – the TV screens. If not, we don’t know what’s happening, and you can’t report what you haven’t seen (unless you’re working for Autosport, it seems).
Anyway, after that and the press conference, we dragged ourselves and our kit back up the hill to the hotel – no point waiting for a cab – and got ready to go out for dinner. This time it was the Mezzaluna at the Mandarin Oriental, the most expensive dinner of the trip. The Mezzaluna goes in for London prices, but it’s well worth it. It’s also very pleasant dropping into the Mandarin Oriental bar, and finding out who’s there.
The first people we ran into were the Jelleys, while we were waiting for Glyn to show up. We sat and had a drink with them, and then wandered down to the restaurant, where we encountered Rickard Rydell, and Jordi Gene, the latter somewhat embarrassed at having crashed on the out lap in WTCC testing that afternoon. Still, everyone in the WTCC was a bit embarrassed, as they’d not turned a wheel till Friday late, because some bright spark off-loaded 8 containers in Beijing, leaving most of their tools, and tyres, sitting there. Apparently it had been known about by the shipping company on the Saturday, but no one had thought to say anything before Tuesday… Oops indeed.
We settled in for dinner, and this time had a phenomenally good meal (the beef was stunning), which I won’t describe this time (I just had a sandwich and soup for dinner so I don’t want to think about it). Anyway, afterwards, after a long chat with James Jakes and his Dad, John, we retired to the bar for a quick drink. That was the plan anyway, but we somehow got inveigled into having a drink or two with Carl and Deborah Jarvis. It wasn’t part of their plan to stay up till 2.30, or theirs, but that’s what happened.
Various drivers wandered across to say hello, and we were much amused by the local whores. Their technique was quite simple. They’d occupied a table on the way in to the bar, and were nursing a drink each. Every unaccompanied man that walked in there, one of them would leap from her chair and fling her arms round the guy as if he was long lost friend. Mostly, they were politely but firmly rebuffed, and they were all still there when we finally gave up and went off to Sands to snag a cab.