It is translation of Portugese article from this great blog https://macauantigo.blogspot.com/. I made it for myself (as long as i am very interested in my almost local Gran Prix, but i don’t speak Portugese). So probably more english speaking mates can read it. But all credit go to the original source.
Header picture – art of Grande Premio start in 1954, from GP Musuem. It was the first and last start in Le Mans style.
Once upon a time… one afternoon in 1954 When, one afternoon in 1954, during a conversation over coffee, four men took up the task of holding a car test in Macau, they were far from assuming that the “joke” they intended to take in fact it could one day gain the dimension that the events on the Circuito da Guia have today. In fact, the Macau Grand Prix was born out of a joke. And who says so is the engineer Macedo Pinto, one of the four enthusiasts responsible for the fact that car racing has such a body in this Territory under Portuguese administration. Macedo Pinto, Carlos Silva, Paulo Antas (already deceased), Captain Cruz – are the names of the first hour. The four of them met frequently, and one day…
During the early 1950s, Macau’s population was approximately 200,000 and there were roughly 600 motor vehicles, including light and heavy cars as well as motorcycles, on the roads. The younger generation showed a keen interest in motorsports, as evidenced by the sports festival held on October 18, 1953 at Campo Desportivo 28 de Maio (Canídromo). The event was organized by local clubs Benfica and Sporting and sponsored by Laurinda Marques Esparteiro, the Governor’s wife. Ticket sales proceeds were donated to the “Christmas for the Poor in Macao” fund. The festival included cycling competitions and a car gymkhana, which was described by the press as being “executed by a group of the best drivers in the land.” Dr. Adelino Barbosa da Conceição and Maria Leopoldina Pinto Ribeiro won first place with a final time of 7m. 25s. and 4/10 (with two faults already added). Dr. António Nolasco da Silva and his wife placed second and third with a final time of 7m. 56s. and 2/10, and Captain Júlio Augusto da Cruz and his wife finished in 9m. and 7s.. Mr. José Alves and his partner Maria Helena Neves da Silva received the consolation prize.
It is curious to note that in this batch of names is António Nolasco, an illustrious lawyer, and one of the ‘founders’ of the GPM, along with Carlos Humberto da Silva, Fernando de Macedo Pinto, João Pires Antas, Júlio Augusto da Cruz and Paul Eric du Toit.
In the early months of 1954, a group of individuals had an idea to organize a gymkhana in different parts of Macau. After receiving technical advice from a Swiss resident in Hong Kong, it was decided that the conditions were suitable for a larger event – a Grand Prix! The group had to make multiple contacts, including one with the Automóvel Clube de Portugal (ACP), an institution that had experience in organizing motor sports competitions since its creation in Portugal in 1903.
Macedo Pinto says:
“…there were no more than 300 or 400 cars in Macau. One afternoon, chatting in the café, we decided to organize a gymkhana, but a gymkhana with unusual features. Carlos Silva then remembered to write to Hong Kong, to the local car club, asking for information on how to organize the race, which we did not want limited to a closed place, which, in our idea, should involve the whole city.
They even wrote and the answer was not long in coming. A response, incidentally, quite different from what they expected, as a man of Swiss origin appears on the scene, Paul de Tois by his name, and who for Macedo Pinto deserves the honors of being considered the “father” of the Macau Grand Prix.
Well, Paul de Tois, instead of writing and sending information, decided to go to Macau, taking advantage of a weekend.
We went to receive him and he, an individual of fantastic dynamism, went straight to the point and asked us what we wanted to do, continues Macedo Pinto. And they told him, guess what, that they had a circuit…
We got in a car and drove to what is the current Guia Circuit, which was the route we had already outlined. And our surprise could only be enormous when we saw Paul de Tois jumping.
This is not a gymkhana. What you have is the Grand Prix circuit!
That’s what he was saying to us, as we looked at each other with that look that someone who purely and simply thinks they’re playing with him can have.
Paul de Tois, however, with all his dynamism, and an unusual ability to convince people, made them see that he was not kidding, he really insisted: – You have a circuit that is better than Monaco. I never imagined that there could be such a thing in Macao! And what is certain is that the four decided that it was to accompany that man. Even if he was a madman, he had convinced them.
Before the last weekend of October 1954, the date of the first GPM (days 30 and 31), hard work was needed on the part of those who had the idea, and later, the Organizing Committee of the race.
“One afternoon, chatting in the cafe, we decided to organize a gymkhana, but a gymkhana with unusual scope. Carlos Silva then remembered to write to Hong Kong, to the local car club, asking for information on how to organize the race, which we didn’t want limited to a closed place, which, in our idea, should involve the whole the city”. The words are from Fernando Macedo Pinto, one of the founders of the race.
The conversation took place in the Riviera hotel café – “the center of Macau meetings”, according to advertising at the time – and the person who responded to the letter, sent in mid-May, was Paul Du Toit, a Swiss living in Hong Kong. Du Toi, instead of writing, took the ferry and went to Macao. “We went to receive him and he, a fantastically dynamic individual, got straight to the point and asked us what we wanted to do“, Macedo Pinto would recall years later, adding that Du Toit concluded: “This is not a gymkhana. What you have is the circuit for a Grand Prix!”. And so it was…
On July 17, 1954, the program of a four-hour race (Grand Prix) and a regularity-speed test was publicly announced at a press conference held at the Hotel Riviera. Still no definite date set – it was only the month of October – there was, however, a very clear idea of the course of the tests: departure from the Outer Port in front of bridge 2 of the Captaincy of Ports towards Estrada de S. Francisco, Estrada dos Parses, Cacilhas, Ramal dos Mouros. D. Maria, Rua dos Pescadores and ending at Av. doctor Oliveira Salazar – what is now Av. da Amizade – a total of 3.9 miles (6.27 Km).
Present at this event were Carlos Humberto da Silva, Captain Júlio Augusto da Cruz, Lieutenant Captain Manuel Pires Antes, Technical Agent Fernando Macedo Pinto and Dr. Antonio Nolasco da Silva. These five men were responsible for creating an ACP delegation in Macao.
The following day, the newspaper O Clarim reported: “Under the superior guidance of His Excellency. the Governor of the Province, a delegation of the Automóvel Club de Portugal will operate in Macau”. Carlos Humberto da Silva will be appointed as the first delegate, a function that over the years has also been performed by António Nolasco da Silva.
Also according to O Clarim, the Governor Joaquim Marques Esparteiro contributed decisively to this initiative, who “promised all his support and offered to give the delegation his superior and competent guidance, so that in the future it could count on with an organization founded on solid foundations and of great benefits for the Province, both from the tourist and sports point of view, as well as from the economic aspect”.
The decisive step was taken for the launch of the organizing committee for the Macau Grand Prix, which would be in charge of the local delegation of the ACP. In the edition of July 25, 1954, O Clarim announced the final dates for the test: on Saturday, October 30, at 1 pm (trainings lasting an hour and a half at 8 am), the regularity and speed test, and on next day, the Grand Prix.
From the enthusiasm of Paul de Tois, the 1st Macau Grand Prix was born, which had the great support of Hong Kong Motor Sports and deserved the affection of the authorities of the Territory.
A bamboo stand was built and the cars hit the road. An incredible mix of cars of all types, as Macedo Pinto recalls. Who remembers more.
For example, that the route between Casa Branca and Ramal dos Mouros was on dirt… He, in addition to being an organizer who was also a competitor, also remembers that on that section of the circuit the dust forced the riders to orient their driving through the treetops! For history, however, there are other facts, such as or part of the track having broken down during the race. But, despite everything, it cannot be said that things have gone wrong.
Once the race program had been defined, on August 15, 1954, the local press reported on the opening of registration for a race that would be governed by the International Code of the International Automobile Federation and by the regulations defined by the organization.
“Registration for the motorsport events organized by the Macau Delegation of the Automóvel Clube de Portugal is now open. which will close on the 1st of September.
The events that will be carried out are the Macau Grand Prix and the Regularity Test, with twenty Hong Kong drivers already registered for the Grand Prix, including two women. To date, Macau has only one entry in the Grand Prix, Fernando Macedo Pinto.
In the test of regularity and speed to which any car driver can compete, with touring cars, great competition is expected given the high number of enthusiasts that exist among us.
Registration for the Grand Prix is free, until the closing date, with $20.00 for the Regularity and Speed Test. After the stipulated period, there will be a new registration period, during which each participant will pay $50.00 for the Grand Prize and $30.00 for the second race.”
On the 15th of September 1954, the results of the registrations were announced. “After the registrations for the Macau Grand Prix and regularity-speed test had closed, it was verified that 25 competitors had registered for the first and 24 for the last. In the Grand Prix, there are only three competitors from Macau, the rest being from Hong Kong; in the regularity-speed test, 14 competitors are from Macao. These tests will take place on the 30th and 31st of October. On the 9th, Mr. Carlos Humberto da Silva, one of the organizers of the motor racing competitions, delivered an interesting lecture on the «Grand Prix of Macau» at the dinner meeting of the Rotary Club of Macau”
At the end of September 1954, the first effects of an event that would completely transform the peacefulness of life in the city began to be felt. The few existing hotels, guesthouses and inns (Bela Vista, Riviera, Central, Grand Hotel, etc…) quickly became completely sold out to the point that advertisements were published in the newspapers asking individuals to show themselves available to rent rooms for test days.
But the cars moved, the races took place. That was indeed important. And it happened with the support of the Police and the Army, which lent the signalmen to the track… Timing, of course, was manual, and the lap counter was made with calendar sheets…
Regulations and stands
At the beginning of October, the organization made known the regulations for the regularity and speed test and the Grand Prix itself. Any “tourist car of current manufacture or any sports car with or without modifications introduced” could participate in this, either by the factory or by someone else, with the aim of improving performance. The drivers (there could be two drivers per car) were informed that they could only use 85/90 octane gasoline and could not have any help from strangers, otherwise they would be disqualified.
The regulations also covered spectators who were prohibited from crossing the circuit track during practice and racing periods. To ensure access to the interior of the perimeter of the circuit there was only one entrance. It was next to Calçada de S. Francisco, where the ticket offices were located (although there were other places where tickets could be purchased). In that area there was an upper bridge for pedestrians to access the circuit – through Av. doctor Rodrigo Rodrigues – without crossing the road. These types of bridges were still next to the Ramal dos Mouros and on the finish line (known as Posto Central), in this case for the exclusive use of the marshals, race director and journalists.
Although in many areas of the circuit there wasn’t an abundance of equipment that would allow the best safeguarding of pilots and spectators (those were different times…) security and rescue issues were not neglected by the organization. Along the circuit, four ambulance posts, ten signal posts, nine removal posts, four fire-rescue posts and thirteen telecommunications posts with direct connection to the central post on the finish line were installed. In this area, seats were reserved for duly accredited media outlets and a voice-over station was also set up to inform the public about the progress of the races. In this busiest place on the entire circuit, a large board was also installed where the classification of the races was written.
To provide spectators with the best views of the circuit, four stands were set up with the capacity to accommodate two thousand people.
In addition to the ticket offices next to the circuit, tickets went on sale on the 25th of October at the Hotel Riviera (BNU intersection), at the Pousada Macau (at nº 1 of Travessa do Padre Narciso, next to the Government Palace) and at Firma H. Nolasco & Ca., on Rua da Praia Grande.
Prices ranged from MOP7.50 for the central stand to MOP5 for the side stand. Outside the stands there were places for pedestrians at 50 avos per person.
There was also the particularity of the prices practiced by the Clube Náutico, as it is located in a privileged area of the circuit (in the area of the finish line). Here, by agreement with the race commission, the chairs cost 2.5 patacas each, also giving access to a table. Without a table, the ticket was one and a half patacas.
With everything ready for the first edition of the Macau Grand Prix, on October 28, 1954, the first five cars to participate in the races arrived in Macau from Hong Kong. The next day the rest would arrive and with those already in Macau, a total of 25 vehicles could be obtained.
Several vicissitudes, including some crashes in training (all drivers had to complete at least one lap of the circuit during training), meant that only 15 lined up on the starting grid where the Governor waved the Portuguese flag ordering the start. The start was made in the style of “Le Mans”, that is, with the cars ordered by category, facing the sea and with the pilots out of the vehicles.
“At the start signal, everyone ran to the cars, some jumping into them, others quickly opening the door while starting the engine”. The report was made by the journalist of O Clarim in the November 4th edition and the fastest driver at the start was Gordon “Dinga” Bell who would set the fastest lap of that year with 4 minutes and 12 seconds manning a Morgan.
After 51 laps of the Guia Circuit (each lap was 6.2 km long) for a total of almost 320 kilometres, in 4 hours, 3 minutes and a few more seconds, the checkered flag was shown to the Triumph TR2, car No. red, led by the Portuguese Eduardo de Carvalho. Winner of the first GPM, he gave a consecration tour of the circuit where he was applauded by thousands of people, later receiving the cup made especially for the purpose in Lisbon from the Governor. “Omega”, the company that supplied the chronometers for the races, offered a table clock.
Thus came to an end two days full of emotion where a car stood out in the GP race by snatching the first three places, the Triumph TR2.
Issue No. 31 of the Macau Newsletter (1954) summarized the most significant events.
“The Macau Delegation of the Automóvel Clube de Portugal held, on the 30th and 31st of October 1954, a motor racing event, which brought together dozens of national and foreign racing drivers from Macau and Hong Kong and thousands of spectators, many of whom coming, purposely, from the neighboring British colony. The program (…) consisted of two separate competitions, both enthusiastically contested and followed with great interest. On the first day, a speed-regularity test was held, with 20 cars competing, 9 of which from Macau. The next day, the Macau Grand Prix took place, in which 15 drivers competed, of which only one was from Macau. Three other cars from Hong Kong were unable to participate in this race due to accidents suffered the day before.
His Excellency the Governor offered the artistic and beautiful cup intended for the winner, which cost around one thousand two hundred patacas and was expressly made in Lisbon. His Ex. Wife of His Ex. the Governor, Mrs. Dr. D.ª Laurinda Marques Esparteiro, at the invitation of the Organizing Committee, cut the symbolic ribbon placed for the inauguration of the circuit, an act that was underlined by a salute applause. Then, the same Honorable Lady declared the circuit open.
The circuit left much to be desired however, and the official stewards report noted the “back of the circuit is very bad – mostly dirt and loose sand.”
Fortunately, and despite everyone’s justified fears, there were no serious disasters to regret during the course of the tests, with the exception of small accidents that resulted in only slight injuries to some drivers, with some material damage.
Brilliantly won the Grand Prix, in which he was classified as absolute winner, the skilful Portuguese driver Eduardo de Carvalho, who drove a 1991 cm3 «Triumph TR2» in the race. The speed-regularity test was won, also brilliantly, by RFA corporal Robert Ritchie, who drove a «Fiat 1100».
The only competitor from Macau, Fernando Macedo Pinto, had a brilliant performance, who, in a «MG Special», was classified in 4th place, proving to be, in skill and regularity, as good as the best.”
António Cambeta, residing in Macau, met one of the ‘founders of the Macau GP:”Engineer Macedo Pinto was a person I knew very well, he was the Director of the Macau Post Office for many years. In addition to his passion for motor racing, he owned a small yacht, and it was through this yacht that I became his a personal friend, he was married to a Chinese lady, who at the time was already a super modern lady, her way of dressing stood out.In the first Macau Grand Prix, the driver Eduardo de Carvalho won, with the Swiss in second Paul de Tois and in third place Raimundo Rocha, Portuguese, with the fastest lap of the circuit being made by Gordon Bell with a time of 4.12.005, it should be noted that the first three drivers were driving TR2 vehicles.”
In the Nov./Dec. of 1954 (nºs 11 and 12 – Year XXIV) the magazine of the ACP (Portugal) gave great prominence to the event labeled as “enormous success” and entitled “The 1st Macau Grand Prix was enthusiastically disputed in front of more than 20 thousand people”. In addition to the references to the commitment to the organization of Mr. Carlos Humberto da Silva, “helpful delegate of the ACP”, the article highlighted the fact that it was “the first pure sprint race held in Macau” and the first of its kind held “on the entire extensive coast of China”.
Alongside the photographs of the protagonists of the first GPM – Fernando Macedo Pinto (4th), Reginaldo Rocha (3rd), Paul du Toit (2nd) and Eduardo de Carvalho (1st) – the report classified the Circuito da Guia as a “wonderful setting” and “extremely difficult” which explained the achieved averages of 80 km/hour. Add to that the fact that part of the route, between the White House and the Ramal dos Mouros, is on beaten earth.
In one of the images that illustrate the article is the moment of the awards ceremony, on 31 October 1954, at a gala dinner in the hall of the Clube de Macau, which was presided over by Governor Marques Esparteiro. On the occasion, the «Grand Prize» cup was handed over to Eduardo de Carvalho by the Governor’s wife, Laurinda Marques Esparteiro.
Macau Grand Prix 1954 Winners
Sports or Special Cars
1st: Eduardo de Carvalho (Triumph TR2) with 51 laps, 319.77 km, in 4 hours 3 minutes and 19.1 seconds.
2nd: Paul du Toit, (Triumph TR 2), with 51 laps in 4 h., 4 m., 46 s., at an hourly average speed of 48.8 miles, spending 1 minute and 27 seconds more than the winner.
3rd: Reginaldo da Rocha, (Triumph TR 2), with 50 laps in 4 hours. 1m. 55.5 seconds.
4th: Fernando Macedo Pinto, in a 1100 cc MG Special, with 48 laps in 4 hours. 3.4 seconds.
Class B Touring Cars
(engine capacity between 750 and 1100 cc.): Robert Ritchie in a Fiat 1100, with 48 laps in 4 hours. 1 m., 57.6 s.
Class D (1501 to 2000 cc): DN Steane, in a Hillman, with 46 laps, in 4h. 1m. 29s.
Class E (2001 to 3000 cc), KO Mak in a Ford Zodiac, with 45 laps in 4h. 01m. 56s.
Despite the worldwide projection that the GPM has nowadays, in the first years the event that would change the facet of the territory had little relevance in terms of news coverage, namely in Portugal. The “Diário de Lisboa” did not write a single line in the days that followed the first edition in 1954. Motorsport was a poor relative compared to what was in vogue: football, roller hockey, cycling and tennis. table. But very soon all this would change and in 1955 (November 5th and 6th) racing would be back on the Guia Circuit. It’s been like this, every year, until today…Article by João Botas published in the JTM (GPM supplement) of 11.16.2015
Every year something improves, which can even be seen from the organization costs. The first edition of the Macau Grand Prix cost 15,000 patacas. The following year expenses rose to 60 thousand. In 1956, more than 200,000 were needed…
Meanwhile, the public was also beginning to pay for tickets. One pataca was how much a ticket cost in 1955.
Photo credits: Macau GP memorabilia, by José Estorninho and Macau GP leaflet, tradition in the East, by Eduardo Tomé Silva Pires. and more…Add to favorites