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Welcome arrow Articles arrow Personality Profiles arrow Macauís Own : Rodolfo Avila
Macauís Own : Rodolfo Avila PDF Print E-mail

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Rodolfo Avila, although Portuguese-born, has been firmly adopted by Macau as almost its own home-grown racing driver. Rodolfo was born in Lisbon, on the 19th February 1987 and lived in Portugal until the age of three. In 1990, the family came to Macau.
Rodolfo quickly gained a passion for the Macau Grand Prix, and of course, the tricky Guia circuit. Although his arrival in Macau was not until the Nineties, his idol is fellow Portuguese André Couto, the Grand Prix winner in 2000.
“Macau is one of the most amazing circuits in the world,” says Rodolfo.  “Not just because it’s a street circuit but because it is in the centre of such a vibrant city.  Macau has now become known as the Las Vegas of the East. From a driver’s point of view,  you have slow corners, you have fast corners; you go up the hill, down the hill. I think there is no other circuit like it.  Perhaps you could compare it with Monaco but I would say that Macau, from a racing point of view, is much better.
“Of course, it’s always dangerous to race on a street circuit, but nowadays, with the cars we race – the formula cars or GT cars – they are all cars that are inherently safe.  We don’t see the fatalities that we unfortunately saw in the past.  In terms of mistakes, Macau is not really a circuit where we can drive at 100 per cent all the time.  As a race car driver, I would say we have to drive at 90-95 per cent so that if we do make a small mistake we don’t end up in the barriers.  
“From a driver’s point of view, Macau is something you have to try.  When I was growing up, Macau was always the race I wanted to watch, but when I first took part I really understood why drivers around the world said that Macau is the best place to race.”
Earlier this year, Avila raced in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia at the Fuji circuit outside Tokyo.  Is it similar to Macau in any way (it has a 1.2 km main straight)?
“Fuji is very different to Macau.  For a start it’s not a street circuit.  Yes, there is a long straight and we pretty much hit the same speeds as we do in Macau – around 270 km/h in the Porsche – but in terms of corners it is totally different.  For a start at Fuji there are run-off areas; in Macau we don’t.  I believe that Macau is more technical compared to Fuji, particularly up in the mountain section.  In some places it is no wider than 10 metres.”

Stars of the Future

Rodolfo moved to Macau from Portugal when he was three years’ old and he grew up watching many of the F1 drivers now in Grand Prix racing.
“Andre Couto was one of my biggest idols because I knew him personally when I was younger.  I saw him racing, going up the career ladder, racing in Macau.  Others such as Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg; quite a few drivers that have raced in Macau and I have watched their careers.  It’s quite special because as a young kid, when you met them in the paddock, you don’t really realise that one day they might be in Formula One.
“These days, if you win Macau, you are most likely going to make your way into Formula One.”
The Michael Schumacher era of 1990 was before Rodolfo’s time but he has seen the footage of Schumacher taking Mika Hakkinen out on the last lap.
“The Schumacher-Hakkinen affair was just the year that I arrived in Macau.  The only Schumacher I remember was Ralf which was, I think, ’95, but Michael I was too young to remember him.”

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Racing in Asia
“I have raced single-seaters and, of course, GT cars and it’s hard to compare them.  They both have their highlights: for example formula cars are a lot of fun to drive because of their speed and the downforce you get in the corners, but GT racing is something more rewarding for the driver. In formula cars we cannot race so close to each other, but in GT cars it’s a bit more fun because we are so close to each other.  Sometimes we are banging doors or mirrors, touching the other car.  I would say that in terms of racing, a GT car is more fun.
“In Macau, Eduardo Mortara is hard to beat because he brings a full factory car (Audi) and for a dealer’s car (the Porsche) to finish ahead of a works entry is not easy.  Another driver that is hard to beat is McLaren’s Danny Watts.  But Audi is a full factory team while the McLaren is not. The Audi has the latest equipment and special tyres.
“This season we introduced the new Porsche 991 GT3 into Porsche Carrera Cup Asia which is a little bit different to the previous car.  This car compared to last year’s car is around 10 bhp more, but what is very different is the gearbox.  Now we have a sequential, paddle-shift gearbox, and the brakes are also different.  The way we need to brake in this year’s car is slightly different to the previous car.  In the beginning it took me a little time to get used to the car.
“Of the other circuits we race on other than Macau, after visiting Japan, Fuji was a very interesting circuit.  The long straight where we can hit very high speeds and can then overtake going into turn 1.  The combination of the high speeds and the last section which is very tight and twisty, a little bit up and down, it makes it very nice to drive.  And of course, in Japan the culture of motorsports is very big compared to the rest of Asia.  It was a very good experience.
“Zhuhai is another circuit that I enjoy.  This was the first circuit that I learned how to drive a race car so it’s quite special to me although it’s a very boring track for many drivers. But I still enjoy it because it’s all about the brakes.   It’s all about being as late on the brakes as you can and then focus on the exit of the corner.  But I would say that as a place where you can learn to drive, Zhuhai is all about the braking.
“I do a lot of driver training at Zhuhai.  Because I am based in Macau it’s easy for me to pop over to ZIC.   It’s been around for about 20 years now and it’s still a good track.  In fact, it’s one of what I would call, the best learning grounds in China.  It’s where most of us race-car drivers come from.”
Rodolfo will race the Porsche GT3 in the Macau GT Cup which takes place over 12 laps on Sunday morning.

 
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© 2018 Jeff Heselwood. All rights reserved.
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