There are many articles celebrating the drivers who have raced around Macao’s challenging Guia Circuit, but the name Maria Fernanda de Menezes Ribeiro is mentioned in very few of them.
Nicknamed Speedy, Ribeiro was the first woman to win a race at the Macau Grand Prix. She did so in 1956, at the wheel of a Fiat 1100. The now 97-year-old Macao local was a car enthusiast from a young age, learning how to drive at the age of 12 by watching her father’s chauffeur.
In an interview on her 94th birthday, Ribeiro recalled “There were all these big cars. I was the first one to come out of the race and they never caught up with me.” She says that “at that time, few women drove cars. It was always men.”
How times change. Many other women have participated in the Macau Grand Prix since. Singapore’s Anne Wong Holloway won the Touring Car Race in 1970 in a Mini-Cooper S. Hong Kong driver Albert Poon and his wife Diana were the first-ever couple to compete on the Guia Circuit. Diana was also the first woman to drive a single-seater on the track. Then came South African Desiré Wilson in the 1980 Macau Formula 3 race, followed by French Cathy Muller in 1983. Muller placed 12th that year, in the same race that Ayrton Senna placed first.
As for this year, Flǒrsch and Schoots are back on the grid along with other exceptional female racing drivers. Read all about them below.
If you see a red, black and white F4 ride flying past, emblazoned with the number 19, that’ll be Bianca Bustamante. The Filipina driver is set to make her debut at the 70th Macau Grand Prix for BlackArts Racing.
Bustamante has been karting since she was five and is well-acquainted with Macao: she began her karting journey here. This time, she’ll have rather more power under the hood.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for learning, and I’m going to absorb as much knowledge as possible from this experience,” she said in a media statement. “Although there will be over 20 F4 cars in the race, the biggest challenge will be against myself, as I push to conquer this iconic street circuit.”
The 18-year-old showed her worth in the 2023 F1 academy by placing 7th in the championship. The performance led to her becoming one of the top five “Most Influential Female Drivers” and the first female to join the McLaren Driver Development Programme.
Previous drivers that have climbed up the ranks in such fashion include Lando Norris and joint-record seven-time world championship holder Lewis Hamilton. Find out over the weekend whether Bustamante can lead her team to glory.
Another debutante at the Macau Grand Prix is Miki Koyama – one of Japan’s top female drivers and winner of the 2022 Formula Regional Japan title. This year she joined the Arnage Racing Lexus GT300 team in Super GT as a third driver.
The 26-year-old has a goal to step up to Formula 3 and says this is a good opportunity for that, but she’ll approach it with caution. “I’ve never driven at Macao, so when the walls come into play, I still don’t know how far I can push without hitting the guardrails,” she told motorsport.com.
Vivian Siu is relatively new to the racing world. But the Hong Kong driver has already been making a name for herself. She currently competes in the 2023 F4 Chinese Championship and is the first female to do so. According to Racers Behind the Helmet, she grabbed her personal best with 17 points in Zhuzhou at the F4 Southeast Asia Championship.
At the Chinese Championship, Siu drove the Mygale car. But for the Macau GP, she will be in a Tatuus F4 drive – the same car she used for the Southeast Asia Championship. Siu will be arriving at the Guia Circuit with a good chunk of race time under her belt, and a good feel for her race vehicle.
The name Sophia Flǒrsch will be familiar to anyone who’s watched the Macau Grand Prix for the last few years.
The German suffered a spinal fracture in 2018 after her car flipped and crashed into the hoardings. A week and two days later, Flǒrsch was out and appointed “Macao Tourism Goodwill Ambassador” by the Macao Government Tourism Office.
The accident did not stop the 22-year-old from having another go at the sport she is passionate about. Flǒrsch returned to the Macau GP in 2019. A year later, she was awarded the Laureus World Comeback of the Year for her bravery. “It was always clear to come back, to drive again, to race again and to fight for my dream,” Flǒrsch told CNN.
At the 2022 Macau Grand Prix, Nadieh Schoots of the Netherlands became the first female motorcyclist on the Guia Circuit. She is back again this year as the only female rider on the grid along with 22 other bikers.
“For the team, the mere fact of being on the starting grid with the first woman to race there is already a milestone,” Spanish team Basomba Racing boss Ramón Basomba told Motociclismo. “We have not set any objective since these races are unpredictable and competing with 100% professional teams and drivers is already a large prize.”
Look out for Schoots in an all-pink motorbike with the number 28.
Check here to know where you can purchase the 70th Macau Grand Prix tickets.