By Jonathan Evans
This November brings two of the biggest annual events to Macao SAR – the Macau Grand Prix and the Macau Food Festival. Both carry special significance in 2018, with the motor-racing gala celebrating a major anniversary, and the food fest tying in with the UNESCO Creative Cities’ Year of Gastronomy.
Come mid-November, Macao unveils its biggest sporting gala of the year, but this year’s Grand Prix is extra-special: it’s the 65th edition of the world’s only motorsport event for both cars and motorcycles. Throughout the weekend of 15-18 November, hundreds of drivers and riders will compete across various categories of motor-racing, including single-seaters, touring cars and motorbikes.
As ever, the highlight of the weekend’s racing will be the Formula Three Grand Prix along the 6.2km-long Guia Circuit, considered one of the world’s most demanding racetracks. Reaching speeds of up to 275km/hour, drivers tackle this street circuit with its long, fast straights, sharply twisting corners and unyielding crash barriers. The Formula Three race, which became part of the Grand Prix weekend in 1983, has been a springboard for some of motor-racing’s biggest names – including previous winners Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard – to make their mark before graduating to the global spotlight in Formula One.
Macao’s race, along with New Zealand’s, is one of only two non-Formula One events to receive “Grand Prix” designation. This year’s race looks to be as intriguing as ever, with its usual mixture of seasoned racers, rising stars and overseas talent. Over the last decade, drivers representing Sweden, Portugal, the UK, Japan and Italy have lifted the trophy, adding to the event’s unpredictable nature.
The main three races – the Formula Three Grand Prix, the Guia Race (the FIA World Touring Car Cup) and the FIA GT World Cup – bring together a rich variety of vehicles to test out the track. The colourful touring car event, with its heavily modified road cars, stops off in Portugal, Slovakia, China and Japan before the climax in Macao, while the GT World Cup race for GT3-spec cars sees the classic style of sleek, aerodynamic marques such as Audi and Porsche competing for supremacy at the chequered flag.
The high-octane entertainment also brings a battle of the bikes in the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix, while there’s much local interest in the CTM Macau Touring Car Cup, which was won last year by Macao driver Leong Ian Veng.
A series of subsidiary events will take place in celebration of this year’s 65th-anniversary Grand Prix weekend. A games-filled Grand Prix Family Carnival takes place on 3 & 4 November; the Auto Show (10 & 11 November) showcases the racing events’ participating vehicles. Both these events are held in Tap Seac Square, while in the Guia Circuit Fun Run (11 November), runners can test the racetrack for themselves. In addition, MGP-themed photos and short videos submitted by residents will be displayed on social-media platforms, allowing the public to experience the atmosphere of the sporting spectacle through alternative channels.
While the Grand Prix is considered Macao’s most prestigious international annual event, another major calendar highlight, the 18th Macau Food Festival, also takes place over two and a half weeks in November (9-25) at Sai Van Lake Square. Since 2001, this carnival has brought the best in gastronomy from South-East Asia, Europe and Mainland China – as well as Macao, of course – to an international crowd of food aficionados. Each year, a theme is chosen to encompass the spirit of the festival, and this year’s topic, “Global Delicacies”, aptly sums up the diversity on offer; more than 100 local food brands have also been invited to take part.
Curious snack-seekers can delight their palates with dishes from around the world in “food streets” devoted to various cuisines – tasty alleyways including Macao Street, Greater China Gourmet Street and Portuguese Street. Over the 18 years of its existence, the festival has expanded considerably, with fireworks, exhibitions, games, singing, dancing and a photography contest all added to the entertainment. This year, instead of buying cash coupons, visitors may also use payment methods such as QuickPass or WeChat Pay.
The wider context of recent accolades from UNESCO has given this year’s feast of fine fare greater significance. When Macao was designated a Creative City of Gastronomy in November 2017 – the third Chinese city to be accorded such status, after Chengdu and Shunde – it raised the curtain on the 2018 Year of Gastronomy.
For this special celebration, a variety of activities are planned with the aim of preserving the city’s unique array of cuisines. Education and training will be given by experienced chefs, food experts will compile a multilingual database of Macanese recipes, and more local dishes will be added to restaurant menus in a bid to promote Macao’s cuisine.
The Creative Cities accolade also means that various events and industries – including the Macau Food Festival – will receive extra backing as local cuisine becomes part of a broad-based cultural tourism sector. At December’s International Film Festival & Awards and February’s Chinese New Year parade, gastronomy will be incorporated into the presentations; there will be a special showcase for Macanese fare at food events such as the Macao Gastronomy Carnival and the next two editions of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Meanwhile visitors to Macao who are interested in taking gastronomic tours can try new culinary routes, and improvements in the catering industry are set to consolidate Macao’s pre-eminence in the MICE industry.
For related articles, please click HERE