At the top of the hill, on the back side of the circuit, was a hairpin so tight that there were mirrors on either end to forewarn oncoming traffic. The only way to make it around the corner was to be on the outside edge of the road and use all of the available steering lock. On the run up to the hairpin, Earl had been driving a defensive line to keep Hasemi behind him. But on this par-ticular lap, he left the door open, hoping to bait Hasemi into an unforced error.
“He went to the inside of me all of a sudden,” Earl says. “At the last second, he realized he wasn’t going to make the corner. I looked over and, I swear to God, I saw steam coming out of his helmet. He had to stop and reverse, and he fell back six or eight seconds.” Hasemi blew his motor trying to make up for lost time, and Earl cruised home.
Earl was thrilled – until he got to the awards banquet and received a whopping $36 in prize money. “I asked Geoff about it because he’d won the year before, and he said, ‘I got $34 last year,’” Earl says. “Hayashi left me high and dry. I didn’t have any money or a hotel to stay in.” He spent the night on the floor of American journalist Steve Nickless’s room.
The hits kept coming when Earl got home. “I figured, worldwide race, ‘Bob Earl wins Macau,’ blah blah blah. Enzo Ferrari is going to call me tomorrow,” he says. “And I didn’t have a ride for three years! I went back to work at the Bob Bondurant School.”
A few years later, Earl returned to Macau when the GP was run as a Formula 3 race. He’d never driven an F3 car before, so he decided to spend a practice session shadowing a highly touted Brazilian kid then racing as Ayrton da Silva. Afterward, Earl told his race engineer, Carroll Smith, “‘He pulled me two feet on the exit of every corner. Who the **** is that guy? I don’t think I can beat him.’”
Later, of course, da Silva restyled himself as Ayrton Senna. Earl never caught him on the track. But when it comes to Macau Grand Prix results, they’re dead-even – one win apiece.