Macau On All Cylinders

Gulfstream sponsored the test track at the Top Marques show, allowing guests to lead-foot hot cars through this city of contrasts.
travel, lifestyle, automotive
Written By Michael Westlake
Photography By Graham Uden

The word “WAAAAHH!—whether speaking Mandarin or any of the other Chinese languages—is equivalent to, yet far more expressive than, the English word WOW!

There was a lot of highly emphatic WAAAAHH! in Macau last November when the first Top Marques show held outside Monaco brought supercars to this other seaside playground. Incredibly beautiful, unbelievably fast and simply sexy, these vehicles elicit a desire that is hard to deny.

With its reputation for speedy transportation, Gulfstream elected to sponsor the event’s test track, which actually incorporated some quieter city streets and some closed off straight-aways where invited guests could lead-foot hot cars.

“What we found was not just people who appreciate expensive cars, but individuals who admire precision engineering focused on ultimate performance,” says Herman Chai, Gulfstream regional vice president of sales. “Those are good associations for Gulfstream.”

All the usual suspects from the supercar world were there: Maserati, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, Audi, Bugatti, Jaguar and Range Rover, all offering their latest wares.

Ferrari says China, Hong Kong and Taiwan combined have become its second largest market in the world, with 378 new cars sold there in the first half of 2011, a surge of 116 percent over the previous year. (The U.S. was in first place with 939 sales in the same period.)

Incredibly beautiful, unbelievably fast and simply sexy, these vehicles elicit a desire that is hard to deny.

Lamborghini sold 138 cars on China’s mainland in the first half of 2011, a rise of 60 percent over 2010’s first half, plus another 60 in Hong Kong—its new 12-cylinder superfast Aventador is priced at more than US$800,000.

Jerod Shelby, founder of American supercar automobile manufacturer SSC, was personally piloting guests around the track in his 260-miles-per-hour Ultimate Aero. Shelby is a near ringer (albeit a clean-shaven one) for The Transporter star Jason Statham, with dark shades and equal driving élan. Shelby, an engineer of revolutionary design concepts, launched a medical device company among other noteworthy accomplishments, then tested the Ultimate Aero in NASA Langley’s wind tunnel. It was hard for the Gulfstream folks not to feel an affinity for this supercar entrepreneur.

Spectators gather around the Pagani Huayra, capturing pictures of its precision parts and details.

According to the Hurun Report, China’s super-rich (with a net worth of at least RMB 100 million (US$15.7 million), have an average age of 43—about 10 years younger than their Western counterparts. But they are stratified into groups, with the older segment generally looking for comfort and the younger ones for adventure. There’s also a number who have security on their minds.

For instance, you’d be hard-pressed to be more secure and comfortable than in Conquest Vehicles’ Knight XV, built in Canada. Outside, it’s an armored SUV, bulletproof, blast resistant and huge—it exudes a meanness intended to dissuade potential kidnappers. Inside it is hyper-luxurious and spacious, with every comfort possible. Six of the vehicles have been sold in the Chinese mainland at US$500,000 each.

Then there’s the Pagani Huayra, which replaces the well-known Zonda. This beautiful Italian creation attracted the most attention at the show, with its elegant lines and retro interior. A mere US$1.5 million each, though sales figures have not been given.

For those with an eye for ecology, the Fisker Karma, an electric vehicle named Automobile magazine 2012 Design of the Year, was on display, with its manufacturer hoping to have it approved for sale in China soon. More radical was La Barata, an all-electric small racing car that is road legal. The car features a highly visible external skeleton (which is why its name is La Barata, Portuguese for “cockroach”), and offers an idiosyncratic vision of the future in a fun package produced in Macao by former flight engineer and historic racing car enthusiast Neville McKay.

Now that’s WAAAAHH!

According to the Hurun Report, China’s super-rich (with a net worth of at least RMB 100 million (US$15.7 million), have an average age of 43—about 10 years younger than their Western counterparts.

Gulfstream’s Chai Shares What Makes a Supercar Truly Super

Herman Chai, Gulfstream regional vice president of sales, who heads our new Beijing office, is simply smitten with cars. An aeronautical engineer and industrial designer, Chai brings a fine eye to automotive products, so we asked for his take on the automotive finery on display in Macau.

You’re a car guy, right? What was your favorite car at the show and why?

absolute favorite is the Pagani. No matter if you are looking at its exterior, cabin or engine compartment, you see jewel-like treatment and precision manufacturing. I can spend hours looking at every detail and not see all the TLC put into the design of this car.

The Pagani is like an art deco jewel with modern design sensibilities.

OK, so you are in love with the Pagani. Tell us more.

The first thing that attracted me is the design. Alas, I’m into aesthetics; I love beautiful things, over function and performance. This car has many art deco themes mixed with modern design sensibilities, and the interior looks like a modernized cockpit for Buck Roger’s ride from the ’20s and ’30s. Note how they grouped the quad exhaust tips beautifully high up in the rear end to say, “Hey, we’re the exhaust nozzles and we’re not ashamed to tell you we are not just beautiful, we aim to blow your doors off and that’s why you are looking at my rear end!” Then add the high-tech bells and whistles like the active aerodynamic spoilers and diffusers to the mix and you have a magical automobile.

Which vehicle most embodied the experience and quality of Gulfstream?

I would have to say Rolls-Royce; they don’t call Gulfstream the Rolls-Royce of business aircraft for no reason. Nothing has the poise, confidence and absolute perch over its dominion like a top-of-the-line Rolls. When you buy a Rolls, you know you are getting the history, experience, provenance and the commitment to quality and technology of the company behind it. The very same can be said of a Gulfstream.

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