On November 20 1983, Ayrton Senna won one of the most important races in his Formula 3 career, the Macau GP. The race went down in history as the Brazilian driver’s last official race before his Formula One debut in 1984, with Toleman. And there’s another interesting fact about the race: it took place on the same day Senna met Gerhard Berger, his future friend and McLaren teammate.
There was a lot of expectation surrounding the Macau GP, since it was the race’s 30thedition – and the first one also featuring Formula 3 cars. In previous years, the competition was restricted to Formula Atlantic, GT cars and motorcycles.
After winning the British F3 title in 1983, Ayrton was invited to take part in the race in Macau by Theodore Racing, a team that had a color scheme similar to McLaren’s, Senna future F1 team. Since F3 cars had small fuel tanks, the GP was divided in two races, each with 15 laps. The drivers would have their times in each race added up so a winner could be determined.
Senna’s main adversaries were Martin Brundle, the Brazilian’s arch-nemesis in the British F3; Colombian Roberto Guerrero, who had competed in the 1983 F1 season for Theodore Racing; and Berger, who competed for team Trivellato Racing.
As a preview of what was going to happen over the following years in F1 street circuits, Senna dominated the Macau GP. The Brazilian took the pole position with a time of 2min22s02 and stayed ahead for most of both races, leading the second one from start to finish.
Senna finished the first race in 35 minutes, six seconds ahead of Guerrero, while Brundle came in in third. In the second and decisive race, Senna beat Guerrero by 1s22, and Berger finished in third, rounding out the podium.
Senna had the race’s fastest lap, but Berger was awarded the prize during the official ceremony. In an after-race party, the Austrian and the Brazilian talked about the organizers’ mistake and figured things out by themselves, marking the beginning of the friendship between the drivers.