Sam’s 2008 Macau campaign was a masterful display of skill, patience and, when it mattered, blistering pace. Sadly, the young Briton’s bid for final victory ended on the approach to Mandarin Bend on the opening lap or the Grand Prix race, as Roberto Streit inexplicably slammed him into the barriers.
The Brazilian driver was subsequently fined for his recklessness, but that was scant consolation for Sam who had been building up, since the first practice session on Thursday, to claiming outright victory for himself and his team Manor Motorsport.
Indeed, the Noble Group sponsored racer drove with a sense of controlled pace and tactical intelligence in both practice sessions and the first qualifying session, choosing to concentrate on accumulating valuable mileage and focusing on fine-tuning the set-up of his car.
He knew that the second qualifying session would be the one that counted and that was the moment he chose to show his hand for the first time. With less than four minutes of the session remaining, Bird put in a stunning lap to be the first man to break into the 2min 11s (2min 11.988secs) when Kei Cozzolino brought out the red flag by hitting the wall at Fisherman's.
After the debris was cleared and as the entire field rejoined for one last shot at pole, Sam was already three tenths up on his own time and looked set to put pole position well beyond anyone’s reach. However, he was forced to abort his lap with a two car crash ahead of him, blocking part of the track.
Carlo Van Dam, on the other hand, took full advantage of the TOM's team's position at the 'front' of the pit-lane, and enjoyed a completely clear track to improve on Sam’s time by one tenth of a second and grab pole for Saturday’s qualifying race. Having earned a front row start, Sam was subsequently slapped with a 3 grid slot penalty for having missed a call to the weighbridge during the morning practice session.
Starting fifth in the qualifying race, Sam drove with controlled pace to cross the finish line in the same position and earn himself the fifth place on the grid for the Grand Prix race.
The start of the race was trademark Sam as the CJ Motorsport managed driver was moving into third ahead of Roberto Streit, from where he would surely have challenged for victory. Sadly, that was when the Brazilian, in a moment of sheer madness, brought the curtain down on Bird’s otherwise magnificent 2008 Macau Grand Prix.
A frustrated Sam commented after the race: "I was quick enough for the front row in qualifying. I stayed out of trouble yesterday (the qualifying race) when the car wasn't quite right. I made a great start today and I honestly thought I had a good chance of winning and to have it taken away by such a silly move by another driver is just so frustrating."
“To say that I am bitterly disappointed right now is an understatement”, he added. “But in a few days I will be able to reflect about the good things that I have achieved here over the past few days and I will bounce back as always! I do want to say a special thanks to the Noble Group for sponsoring me to take part here, to Manor for preparing a great car for me and to my managers at CJ Motorsport for making it all possible”.