Travel 2007 – Macau, Day 8

Sunday, 18th November 2007 – Macau, Day 8

I made another early start on Sunday, figuring that it might be interesting to get out for the warm up at 8 am and take some pictures of the WTCC cars as well as our boys. So I set the alarm for 7, got up, and gulped down a coffee. I was outside the hotel by 7.30 (on a Sunday, when I was nominally on holiday!). The locals were up early practicing Tai Chi or something very similar round the fountain at the top of the hill. There was a breakaway individual a little further down the hill, and he seemed to be moving to the music in his head rather than that issuing from the speakers along the car park edge. Regretting that I had no time to stop and take photos of them, I headed out intending to try and get the other side of Melco. I know it can be done, but having following my nose I ended up at Dona Maria instead, which was a bit short on light given the time of day and anyway is listed as somewhere you’re not allowed to stand unless you get there (and across the track) at the start of the day, and then you’re not allowed to leave until it’s all over! I didn’t want to do that. I had other plans for the day.

That meant I had to retrace my steps until I ended up where I’d been on Thursday. It didn’t matter really – the light was different, and they’d stopped messing about and were now allowing you to stand wherever you wanted. I suspect someone from the press office had had a word or two with the officials… Anyway, I spent a happy half hour or so out there, finding that the touring cars were much more alarming at such close quarters than the F3s, probably because of the sheer bulk of them. Certainly, I was standing slightly further back when they were out there, and I didn’t feel at all inclined to hang my elbow, or any other part of my anatomy, over the barrier frankly. Anyway, I must have been close enough, because when we ran into Tiago Monteiro and Rickard Rydell wandering the streets of Macau later that day, Tiago reckoned he’d seen me there. Someone else who did was Stephen Jelley, who gave me a cheery wave on his slowing down lap (any other lap and I would have slapped him), which I actually managed to catch on camera.

I also managed to catch a long sequence of shots of Edoardo Mortara getting it all very badly wrong and slamming into the barriers at the end of the road, and then getting out and glaring at the car as if it was its fault and not his… It was quite comical, at least to a casual observer.

After the session ended I returned to the Pousada, via the Jardim de Montanha Russo, taking photos of the wonderfully gnarled, and aged trees on the way. The plan, and it was a good one, was to shower, breakfast and collect the laptop and Lynne, who had very sensibly declined to join me on the warm up. And so, ready for the main race of the day, we headed down to the press office, taking advantage of the hotel shuttle bus to get us there.

We watched the WTCC title fight being decided in favour of Andy Priaulx for the third time in as many years (and no one was more surprised than him when the two main contenders both broke down a lap from the end, thus helping him to the title – a successful driver always needs luck as well as talent and Andy seems to have more of the former than the rest of the field put together). We arrived, in fact, just as Alain Menu won the first of the two races, which meant we could still say that he only wins when Lynne is watching him. He claims this is bullshit but we keep saying it because it winds him up something rotten, which is always fun!

Anyway, with the touring cars out of the way we could all settle down to the real business of the day, the F3 Grand Prix. In previous years, access to the pitlane and grid has always been a serious issues, with only pink bib holders being allowed in the pits and pit lane, and blue bib holders being allowed on the grid only through a gate at the far end, and then only after the locals casinos, brothels and such have shepherded their girls (a mix of skinny Chinese girls and hard-faced Eastern Europeans with bad dye jobs, all wearing ridiculous plastic outfits and showing as much of their knickers as they possibly can) out there and surrounded the cars with them, so that it’s hard to get a picture without one of them appearing in it. I usually manage to avoid them, and if want pictures of the girls, someone else can take ‘em, not me (which was pretty much the gist of the conversation I had with team manager Michele Quaife at Carlin – as she said, she and Vicky work three times as hard as the guys in the team and have to really slog away at it to gain respect and then these creatures turn up – she wasn’t impressed and the Carlin cars notably didn’t have any hangers on around them). Anyway, I digress. This year, despite notices to the contrary, I wandered through the Double R garage (where the remains of Bruno’s car were being used as a lunch table), and into the pit lane.

I had to get out. I’d just been treated to the sight of Sebastien Buemi in his red and white flowery underwear, and no one should have to see that. Once out there no one blew a whistle at me or in any way tried to stop me. And I wasn’t the only one there. There were several of us all taking advantage of an apparent official change of heart. It was an odd but not unwelcome change. For one thing it meant there wasn’t a hideous scrum to get through the tiny gap in the safety fencing and for another it meant I managed to get to all the way to the back of the grid, and take all the photos I wanted on the way up the grid, and I still arrived back in the press office just as the five minute buzzer went warning everyone to clear the grid. I could probably even have taken photos of the Lion Dance and the drivers meeting the governor of Macau, the ritual undertaken every year before the race starts, but I was busy being waved at cheerily by Willi Weber (a slightly worrying development, frankly – I’m surprised he remembers me – we only met twice, and that very briefly) and having Bruno show me his cracked thumb (a very Technicolor bruise was developing).

I won’t re-report the race, but the podium was funny afterwards. First there was the spectacle of Kazuya Oshima discovering for himself just how heavy those lotus flower trophies are (put it this way, I wouldn’t want to lift one one-handed). Then there was the increasing disbelief on Ollie Jarvis’s face as he was handed a series of trophies by a succession of dignitaries), and finally the sight of Ollie spraying Champagne with blood pouring down his chin – he’d had trouble getting the cork out of the bottle, and as the other two went for him with their sprays, he’d ended up with his face over the bottle. The cork shot out, hit him in the face, and he put his tooth clean through his lower lip! Apparently that wasn’t the first Champagne bottle-related disaster to overtake him this year, either. He’s not normally accident prone, he was keen to stress!

Oh, and at the press conference, it became clear that Japanese dentistry may leave quite a lot to be desired (and also coincidentally that Kodai Tsukakoshi is a very odd looking critter)…

I shall digress again here – once, several years ago, Manor Motorsport were running a couple of seriously strange looking kids, of whom the Pratchett description of an Igor as a self-made man with none of the pieces fitting could be aptly used. A wet soggy race circuit somewhere and time on our hands and John Booth, the team owner, became Dr. Frankenbooth in our twisted minds. Well it looks like Kodai is another of Dr. Frankenbooth’s experiments, which make you wonder just what it is he’s trying to build up there in Sheffield!

A discussion with a team member who must remain nameless on the subject of Kodai’s apparent lack of English went along these lines:
ME: ”So how does he get along with the Manor tea ceremony then?” (This consists of someone brewing up the most hideously strong tea imaginable, in Bertha, the tea pot that has never been cleaned, though it has been soldered more than once, and then someone yelling ”Tea’s up!” I should add that this is the team that ships 30 gallon containers of Yorkshire water all the way to Macau to make sure they can get a proper cuppa!).
TM: ”Oh, he’s always first there.”
ME: ”What does he say about it?”
TM: ”He doesn’t say anything. He just smiles a lot. He’s good at smiling. With those teeth he has to be!”

Anyway, press conference over with and results published, Lynne legged it back to the hotel while I finished the report. The prize giving dinner was due to start at 19.00, which gave me just about enough time to get everything written, checked and sent. I had just typed the last sentence when Lynne reappeared, showered, changed and re-made up. I would just have to make do with cleaning my teeth, combing my hair, and changing into fresh clothes (underwear and all) in the press office toilets. The one thing we’d forgotten were shoes, so while Lynne checked the report prior to sending it, I changed into my white linen trouser suit, red sequined camisole, and… white Fred Perry trainers that I’d been in all day! It didn’t quite work, but what the hell!

Dinner was interesting. We joined Stephen and Jenny, Robert and Lindsay, Glyn, “Sticker” George, and Bruno. It was a fun table, with a great deal of hysteria, especially when the speeches started to drag and Bruno threatened to cut his wrists with w coffee spoon if they didn’t stop soon! Actually, his big problem was that he couldn’t cut anything up because of his injured thumb. We did offer to help, but he soldiered on, milking it for all it was worth.

After dinner, and after all the trophies had been handed out, there was a certain amount of silliness, including me borrowing Alain’s trophy for winning the first WTCC race of the day so I could get a picture of Sam Bird with a trophy (for his Mum to use). Alain and Sam got talking, with Alain starting it off by gesturing at me.
AM: ”She always takes the piss out of me…”
SB (after some consideration): ”She always takes the piss out of me too!”
ME: ”That’s because I like you both…”
That silenced both of them, at least for a while.

As the dinner was breaking up, we allowed ourselves to be talked into going to the BMW post-race party. The only problem was no one seemed to be too sure where it was. We knew it was somewhere that might have been called D2 or possibly Sky21… We just had no idea which of those it was. We also knew it was somewhere ”past the Lisboa” which wasn’t a great deal more helpful frankly. Anyway, we dropped the laptop bag and just about everything except a small amount of cash and a credit card in Glyn’s room at the Rio and set off in search of a party! As we were passing the Lisboa we found Danny Watts and Fiona Leggate outside also looking lost. We joined forces and eventually, after a phone call or two, we were getting closer. Eventually, we found it. And yes, it is called Sky21.There then remained only the small matter of getting in. Actually, it wasn’t a problem at all. As we walked in, the security people asked if we were there for the party, and when we said yes, they ushered us to the lift. They also asked if we had wristbands, and when we said not yet, they said someone would supply them at the door! And on the 21st floor there was indeed a party and we were handed wristbands which would allow us to get drinks. The venue was pretty stunning – two floors of a new high rise building, one floor which seemed to be very much open to the outside world. The Jelleys had snagged a table, and the Jarvises soon joined us out there too. It was beautifully cool, and the Champagne appeared to be never-ending, though the waiting staff were variable (Sam proved himself very effective at getting a round from the bar, as did Jonathan Kennard, while Yelmer Buurman – the only one of the drivers to make an effort and dress up for the pasty – took over an hour to come back with the glass of Champagne he’d promised me – and he wonders why I don’t support him!) There was some dancing, much talking, Valerie Kennard slurring her words quite badly, a rambling discussion with Mellie Jarvis, Ollie’s sister, about fanciable drivers despite the fact that she’s with Sam, and a great deal of silliness, including Tom Coronel baffling Wendy by expounding his philosophy of life or something similar. Oh and telling us his 18 month old daughter has her own web site…We’re used to him. He doesn’t worry us too much (and none of us had pockets on our clothes). Wendy , on the other hand, is probably going to avoid us in future when we’re in social situations in Macau because she always seems to end up on the receiving end of crazed behaviour from Touring Car drivers… As we attempted to leave, much, much later, we were accosted by a very happy Andy Priaulx and party, and Andy was most insistent that Lynne and I must now be part of his winning routine, as we’ve been on the same flight as him the last three years… That means, he says, that we can’t go to Bangkok or Singapore first next year. Hmm…

Someone else somewhat the worse for wear was Brendon Hartley.

He was trying to get back to the Rio but clearly had no idea how to get there. We dragged him back with us, despite his attempts to fall into the hedges or go off in other directions. After startling Walter Grubmüller (far too easy to do) getting money out of the hotel bank machine – and giving him my wristband so he could go to the party – we were ready to quit. Brendon got in the lift with us (we’d been keeping an eye on him), and he apparently got out at the right floor. At that point he ceased to be our problem. He’d only been our problem in the first place because he’s driving for our favourite team next year and we didn’t want to see harm come to him.

Our problem was trying to get a cab once we’d collected our possessions from Glyn’s room. That proved difficult. The first cab driver – who was sitting outside the Rio – tried to tell us the meter didn’t work, so we got out. The streets seemed to be otherwise deserted. We set off to walk to Sands where we knew we’d find cabs. The second cab driver – outside the Mandarin – claimed he didn’t know where we wanted to go, so we got out. Third time lucky! At Sands, we found a driver who knew what he was doing and made it back to the hotel at 4.30, which is waaay too late for oldies like us!

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