As always, the trip to Macau will provide the highlight of many a Formula Three season, even if, for the 52nd running of the FIA Intercontinental Cup will not feature either the British or Euroseries champions.

Instead, the street classic gets the World Series by Renault champion, plus a smattering of leading runners from the UK, to complement the more heavily-represented Japanese and Euro series - plus the usual Macanese also-rans back for another crack at their home event.

With Alvaro Parente already committed to the A1 Grand Prix series in Malaysia, McLaren's decision to advise Euroseries champion Lewis Hamilton not to travel to the Far East robbed the Macau showpiece of its two pre-race favourites but, conversely, may have provided the most open event for some years.

The only current F3 champion on show will be All-Japan title-winner Joao Paulo de Oliveira, running with the works TOM's team alongside Kazuki Nakajima, son of former F1 midfielder Satoru, back for his second appearance at the event. Britain is best represented by its series runner-up - the American Charlie Kimball - while the Euroseries can boast its two leading rookies - Sebastien Vettel and Guillaume Moreau - in the absence of either of the ASM drivers that dominated the championship.

With two seats to fill, ASM opted for Loic Duval to partner rising star Vettel, while the Euroseries can also boast a 2005 racewinner in the form of Lucas di Grassi. Franck Perera, polewinner a year ago in Bahrain, returns with Prema, while veteran Fabio Carbone, Euro-domiciled Japanese Kohei Hirate and rookie Filip Salaquarda complete the series' runners. Past form bodes well for the list, however, as, a year ago, di Grassi, Carbone and Perera finished third, fourth and fifth respectively.

?EURoeI?EUR(TM)m looking forward to both Macau and my inaugural race for Team ASM," Vettel said, "So far, I?EUR(TM)ve seen the circuit only on videos, but it seems to have a little bit of everything.

"First of all, you seem to need a lot of courage to be fast there, but street circuits suit me rather well. I will wait and see what happens during the course of the weekend, but it?EUR(TM)s my definite goal to win the race - even if you always need a dose of luck to do so in Macau.?EUR?

Kimball is joined by Carlin team-mate Christian Bakkerud, Fortec-turned-Manor Motorsport driver Mike Conway, the out-going FRenault champion having landed a plum ride with the Euroseries team and its Mercedes engines, Dan Clarke - now with Euroseries team Prema rather than the Double R set-up that ran him throughout 2005 - the Briton's erstwhile team-mate Bruno Senna, Steven Kane and Stephen Jelley, while Danny Watts, who has run in both Europe and the UK this year, adds vital Macau experience to the group.

Aussie Karl Reindler made sporadic appearances in the UK this season, and heads to Macau with the experienced Alan Docking Racing squad, where he will be up against no fewer than six leading runners from the Japanese series - including Naoki Yokomizo, Paolo Montin, Daisuke Ikeda and Taku Bamba - as well as local favourites. Lei Kit Meng, Lou Meng Cheong, Jo Merszei and Michael Ho. Macau, however, also has a more potent threat in the form of Rodolfo Avila, who has run well in the Asian F3 series this year and could be a surprise package on home soil.

Perhaps the biggest name to grace the race this year, however, is World Series champion Robert Kubica, who has secured himself Parente's seat at Carlin Motorsport for a second stab at the event which yielded only runners-up honours in 2004. Kubica heads to Macau ahead of his F1 test with Renault and on the crest of a wave after clinching the inaugural World Series crown before the final round, and will be hard to beat once he gets his eye in.

Last year, the Euroseries recorded a one-two with Frenchman Alex Pr?(C)mat beating Kubica across the line, with di Grassi completing the podium, the Brazilian having run in the UK to that point.

Free practice and qualifying takes place on both Thursday and Friday, with Saturday offering a rare rest day before the two-leg Grand Prix on Sunday.


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