After qualifying only eighth for the 2013 Macau GT Cup race, Danny Watts could hardly have expected to finish on the podium. But that’s precisely what happened, as several fancied names hit the self-destruct button in a race nobody seemingly wanted to win. Stefan Mucke and Earl Bamber tangled on lap one, then Maro Engel had a tyre go down, but with two laps to go a podium still appeared agonisingly out of reach when suddenly, the race turned on its head. Leader Alexandre Imperatori’s Porsche was baulked on the exit of the Melco Hairpin by a backmarker, which invited pressure from Edoardo Mortara and Renger van der Zande heading into Fisherman’s Bend. As the Swiss ran wide, delaying van der Zande, the opportunistic Watts sliced past the pair of them and followed Mortara across the line to take his second Macau GT Cup podium in as many years. In a Racing.GT exclusive, Watts tells the story.
In a nutshell, I did Macau for thirteen consecutive years in different categories, starting with Formula Asia 2000 to learn the circuit ready for Formula 3. I did three years of F3 with Alan Docking Racing, Hitech and Midland Euroteam and from there I went into the Porsche Carrera Cup, then most recently to the Macau GT race.
I finished third in 2012, but I’d say 2013 was probably one of my best years. It was such a strong field at the time with lots of works drivers there, including Edoardo Mortara, who had won twice in Formula 3 and the previous two years in GT Cup as well. I was with United Autosports in the McLaren MP4-12C, which had the turbo engine. I think around a street circuit we were at a slight disadvantage compared to the Audi, because there are so many slow-speed sections where we struggled with traction on corner exit.
In Formula 3 there’s usually lots of overtaking around Macau, but not so much in GT, so basically everything comes down to qualifying. If you qualify at the front, you’re in with a shout, but if you can’t get your lap in, it doesn’t matter if you’re the quickest man there – you’re not going to win. You get limited running during the weekend at Macau anyway, but it’s a race where you never get a chance to get into a rhythm.
It’s rare that you get two or three or four laps to try and improve, so it’s a case of getting your banker in early before you get backed up coming out of the Melco hairpin by other people starting their fast laps. At the same time, there’s normally a few local drivers who haven’t got the same amount of driving experience as some of the professionals, so you know there will be red flags at some stage. It’s literally a matter of going out as early as you can and getting your lap in – you have to be right on the money, straight away.
I made a really good start in the race and was basically fourth for most of the time. It was a titanic duel between Imperatori in the Porsche, van der Zande in the Mercedes and Mortara. Then with two laps to go at Fisherman’s Bend, which was the penultimate corner on the circuit, they were all bumping each other and I got a run on them. I managed to nip down the inside and get second place, which is where I finished in the end.
For me personally, it was a really good way to top off what had been a really disappointing season. We started the year in LMP1 with Strakka in the Dome, but the team decided to stop after Le Mans, so finishing second at Macau was a great way to pick myself up for the following year. For any driver, no matter whether you’re in Formula 3, or if you’re a bike racer or a GT driver, the Macau Grand Prix is a really good thing to have on your CV if you finish well. I really did enjoy it!