Australian racer Christian Mansell contested the world-famous Macau Grand Prix for the first time last weekend (16-19 September), enjoying a strong debut with the ART Grand Prix squad as he climbed the order in a hectic Sunday contest.
The rapid youngster from Newcastle, New South Wales, was among a hugely competitive entry list for the 70th running of the prestigious single-seater event, won in previous years by the likes of Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard.
Coming off the back of his first full campaign in the FIA Formula 3 Championship which concluded with two podium finishes for the former GB3 Championship winner, Mansell joined multiple title-winning outfit ART Grand Prix for the four-day extravaganza hoping to make a mark on his debut.
Backed by AJM Transport, Castrol, Vawdrey Trailers and VISA Global Logistics, Mansell clocked his first miles on Thursday and Friday with practice and two qualifying sessions held over the opening two days. Early signs pointed to a strong start, with Mansell creeping close to the fringes of the top 10 against experienced drivers and former Macau winners.
Qualifying was plagued by red flag interruptions and traffic issues as the narrow street circuit caught out several rivals who found the barriers. Mansell's best efforts were often stymied by stoppages or hindered by traffic, lining up 24th for Saturday's qualification race.
A good initial fightback moved him six spots better off as he leapt away from the line and up the order heading into Lisboa Bend. Battling for position after a safety car restart, Mansell took the chequered flag an improved 20th, at a circuit notoriously hard to overtake at.
The Infinity Sports Management, IOR Petroleum, Locker 27 and AMSL Diabetes Australia-backed star lined up from the same position he finished on Saturday for the main Macau GP the following day. With a fight ahead and all eyes set on overtaking as many cars as possible under sunny skies, the BRDC-backed driver made the most of his opportunity with a strong start to the 13-lap race. Weaving his way up into the top 15, he was blocked on the outside and forced to check up considerably to avoid a crashing car.
An accident ahead of him then halted the race, forcing a lengthy delay. From the standing restart that followed, four more racing laps played out. Mansell went on the attack and chased for a place inside the top 15 but unfortunately was delayed by a car trailing its front wing, putting him out of touch with the pack ahead. Try as he might, he would have to cruise home a still much-improved 16th under yellow flags for his maiden Macau GP result.
Christian Mansell:"It's been a great experience to race at Macau and I have to thank the whole ART Grand Prix team for giving me the opportunity and their hard work throughout.
"Unfortunately we just never really had luck on our side. Qualifying was a lottery with it being so tight, traffic coming out of nowhere on fast laps and a lot of red flags coming out at the wrong times which meant we couldn't get a consistent run to challenge for where I waned to be.
"In the races we made ground which is promising. Again in the main race we were a bit unlucky on a couple of occasions. We had a rocket start and moved right up the order but got held up by Dunne on the outside, then on the restart I got stuck behind Esterson when he had wing damage and that left me open to attack from behind.
"It's a great learning experience to race in such a historic event, but now we'll relax and be fully focused on our plans for the 2024 season."
Images from Dutch Photo Agency.