Conor Cummins set the fastest time in second and final qualifying for tomorrow’s Macau Grand Prix but Stuart Easton’s stunning lap from Thursday remained good enough for him to retain pole position.
With cool temperatures again greeting the riders (12 degrees air temp, 13 degrees track temp), Easton was unable to better his lap time and so it was left to Cummins on the PBM Kawasaki to set the pace, the Manxman clearly Easton’s main rival heading into the 15-lap race.
The 23-year old set a lap of 2m26.313s to close to within 0.837s of Easton and, had it not been for losing time in the final sector, he could well have been a lot closer.
“I’m really happy with how today has gone and the bike is simply awesome,” said the Ramsey man.
“I’m still getting used to the bike as it’s quite a bit different to the McAdoo bike I’ve been riding all year but we’ve been making small changes here and there to give me a smoother ride, mainly fitting a harder spring, and I feel confident that I can give Stuart a good run for his money.
"I need to improve in the final sector as that’s where I’m losing a lot of time but the team have given me absolutely everything and you can certainly tell they’re a World Superbike team.”
The cold conditions saw times remain static in the early stages but it was Gary Johnson who was the first to make a move, the AIM Raing Suzuki rider lapping in the 2m28s bracket to leap up into fifth place at the 20-minute mark.
However, it wasn’t until two-thirds of the 1-hour session had passed that the times began to really fall.
John McGuinness and Thomas Hinterreiter both bettered Johnson’s time before Cummins went quickest although it was Michael Rutter who looked the likeliest to challenge Easton as the session neared its end.
However, just as Rutter was nearing the end of his flying lap, the red flag came out after American rider Scott Jensen crashed out with just 8 minutes of the session remaining.
The Moto Garage Racing rider lost the front end at the final “R” bend and although he escaped with just bruising the same couldn’t be said for his Suzuki machine and be a non-starter.
When the session re-started there was a major flurry of action and it was the PBM Kawasaki’s of Cummins and Barnes that took to the track first.
The Manxman took full advantage of the clear track and moved up to second on his first flying lap, only really losing time in the final sector from the hairpin to the start line.
Teammates Barnes and Ian Hutchinson also improved their times to claim top five positions and although Easton couldn’t get anywhere near his Thursday time, he was safe in the knowledge, pole position was his.
Rutter again looked like he’d at least improve his time but he broke down on his final lap so he had to settle for third place overall.
Hutchinson completed the front row ahead of the impressive Barnes and Rico Penzkofer, who again showed good form on the BMW.
McGuinness slipped back to seventh, the TT legend taking a little time to adjust to the Pirelli tyres, having spent the last five years racing on the roads on Dunlops with Hinterreiter, Johnson and Stephen Thompson completing the top ten.
Perhaps the most impressive performance though came from British Superbike star Simon Andrews who leaped up to 11th place overall, a time of 2m29.310s making him comfortably the best newcomer.
Final Qualifying Times
1st Stuart Easton (Hydrex IGT Honda) 2m25.476s
2nd Conor Cummins (PBM Kawasaki WSBK Team) +0.837s
3rd Michael Rutter (Team of Paris/AXA Racing Kawasaki) +1.636s
4th Ian Hutchinson (PBM Kawasaki WSBK Team) +1.997s
5th Mike Barnes (PBM Kawasaki WSBK Team) +2.345s
6th Rico Penzkofer (BMW Macau Racing Team) +2.478s
7th John McGuinness (Hydrex IGT Honda) +2.583s
8th Thomas Hinterreiter (Yamaha Austria Racing Team) +2.760s
9th Gary Johnson (AIM Racing Suzuki) +2.954s
10th Stephen Thompson (Robinson Concrete Honda) +3.796s
11th Simon Andrews (Team of Paris/AXA Racing Kawasaki)
15th Steve Mercer (DMR Racing Yamaha)
18th James Hillier (AIM Racing Suzuki)
20th Michael Pearson (BTS Racing Honda)
21st James McBride (East Coast Racing Yamaha)
22nd James Storrar (DMR Racing Yamaha)
23rd Mark Buckley (Jentin Racing Yamaha)