Macau GP: Niall Breen preview
Dundalk's Niall Breen heads to Macau for the 54th running of the Macau Grand Prix on November 15-18 and the silver jubilee of the Formula 3 race around the famous Chinese street circuit.
He becomes the first driver from the Republic of Ireland to bid for Macau glory for many years and is also hoping to improve on the performance of his fellow former Dundalk racer, Tommy Byrne, who competed in Macau in 1983 and '84, when he took an eighth place best finish. Now 24 years later, Breen accepts that the first year at Macau is to learn the street circuit but is clearly focussed on taking the highest place finish ever for an Irish driver in this prestigious race.
Breen makes the long haul trip with Carlin Motorsport, the team that helped him to fifth place in the Lloyds TSB British Formula 3 Championship this year after a victory at Snetterton and four second places. Carlin is taking four drivers to Macau including Breen's team mate this year, Sam Bird.
However, there's a wealth of experience within the field and Breen competes against Bruno Senna, nephew of the late Ayrton, as well as reigning British F3 Champion, Estonian Marko Asmer and Britain's Oliver Jarvis amongst a field of 31.
Said Breen: "Macau is regarded as a two-year programme, the first is to learn the circuit and the second is to win the race! I really want to do well in this first outing and fly the flag for Ireland. I enjoy street circuits and have raced in karts at Monaco and in Formula 3 at Bucharest this year, where I finished second. I'm hoping to get to grips with Macau quickly."
The 21-year old has already placed himself firmly in motorsport's history books by dominating the 2006 Formula BMW UK Championship, clocking up nine wins to become the top UK series race winner of all time as he finished on the podium 16 times in 20 races.
For the second year running Breen is in line to win the Dunlop Motorsport Ireland Young Driver of the Year, which will be announced in Dublin on Tuesday, December 4th. He narrowly missed out on the award last year having won the 2006 Formula BMW UK title.
The Macau Grand Prix is held in such esteem that 19 out of the current 22 Formula 1 drivers have competed in the race during their careers, with David Coulthard (1991), Ralf Schumacher (1995) and Takuma Sato (2001) all winners of the event.
Ulsterman and former Formula 1 driver, Martin Donnelly, won the Macau F3 race in 1987 and recently gave Breen sound advice for his forthcoming eastern foray: "Enjoy yourself, learn the circuit and don't crash!"
Testing and practice 1 gets underway on Thursday, November 15 with further testing and practice 2 on Friday. The pre-final takes place on Saturday and the final on Sunday and there is an eight hour time difference ahead of the British Isles.