The Macau Grand Prix weekend is always on my list of must-watch racing action every year when it rolls around. The tight street circuit usually produces some extremely close and tight action, particularly among the GT3 class. This race draws teams and manufacturer support from all over the world, with some of the greatest drivers duking it out in a pair of short sprint races over the course of two days. Porsche sent a trio of factory drivers to run the race.
Kevin Estre suffered a poor weekend with a bad finish in the qualifying race, and a huge shunt in Sunday’s main which saw his GT3R’s left rear wheel separated from the chassis.
Up at the front, however, it was Porsche’s Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor all over the bumper of the leading Mercedes. In both Saturday’s qualifying race and Sunday’s main it was like this, the two ROWE racing Porsches with two of Porsche’s best racers running in lock step right behind the lead. The tight circuit, combined with a couple of poorly timed full course yellow flags meant that neither could mount a serious effort to make a pass stick.
Saturday’s short 9-lap qualifying race ran like this for the entirety of the event, with Marciello’s Mercedes leading over Vanthoor and Bamber. Never more than a few feet separating the three cars.
Sunday’s 18-lap race had slightly more drama, but not enough to really write home about. Following the safety car period, the BMW M6 of Augusto Farfus got an excellent restart and made an excellent pass on Bamber for 3rd, pulling out of a slipstream to make a drag along the main straight to stick a nose under. It didn’t last long, however, as a tight corner caught out the leading Mercedes, which caused both Vanthoor and Farfus to check up. With exquisite foresight Bamber was able to get third back from Farfus with a great down-the-inside move.
— Vincent Bruins (@VincentJBruins) November 17, 2019
It was not shown during the broadcast, but a handful of laps later Bamber passed Vanthoor up into second. I don’t know for certain, but it looked very much to me like the team asked Vanthoor to cede the position to allow a slightly quicker Bamber to fight at the front with the Mercedes. Bamber was pushing his car very hard, as you can see by this very light brush with the wall which cost him the driver’s side mirror on the car. Somehow he managed to escape without clipping his rear wing off.
On the final lap Bamber got very close to the leader, close enough in fact to give him a big shove with his front bumper at the hairpin corner. It was a close fight, but Bamber knew that he could not get the win. In a completely gentlemanly move, he then slowed on the final straight to give Vanthoor his earned second-position finish back to him.
Porsche put up a good fight, but ultimately didn’t have quite enough to make any proper efforts to pass. It was a slightly staid procession this year, but still worth watching for some great racers making some great moves. If you want to see the whole GT3 class weekend play out, you can watch it all on Motorsport.TV. Here’s the qualifying race, and here’s Sunday’s final. Check it out!