Michael Rutter is well on course to win his eighth Macau Grand Prix after snatching pole position from his SMT Honda teammate John McGuinness during the final qualifying session on Thursday evening.
The 40 year old Birmingham rider became the most successful Macau racer of all-time in 2011 when he won his seventh Grand Prix in the former Portuguese colony of China and although he starts Saturday’s race as firm favourite to reaffirm that domination he said he was ‘a bit disappointed’ that he had not gone faster in qualifying.
‘It felt faster really and I thought that I would have been down in 2.25s but it was a 2.27 lap.’ Michael said afterwards.
Overall practice times were slower in Macau this year as Rutter complained that the ‘the grip isn’t quite there’ and everyone struggled with some much bumpier sections of the course
Nevertheless the BSB star was still two tenths of a second faster than John McGuinness who is also riding one of the same green and white SMT liveried Hondas. The TT star said he was ‘happy to be where I am’ and he vowed to give Rutter ‘a run for his money on race day.’
It also emerged that SMT boss Robin Croft wont be on the grid to see both of his machines on the front row as he has had to return to UK early.
Last year’s runner up Martin Jessopp will be hoping to spoil the Honda party as he finished third fastest on the same Riders Ducati he rode last year.
An extra practice was added to the programme on Thursday morning following the abandonment of Wednesday’s opening qualifying after Luis Carreira’s tragic crash.
The early morning session on Thursday was run in very poor light - at one stage the street lights came on! - and the evening qualifying session was eventually abandoned with 10 minutes yet to run as the daylight faded.
None of this fazed the Macau Master and he is confident that the unfamiliar Honda is good enough to win on Saturday.
‘People keep asking me which is the best Macau bike- the Ducati I rode last year or this year’s Honda?’ he smiles.
‘The truth is they are both great bikes and on some sections, such as the exit from Melcoo, the Honda has the edge whereas on the fast, flowing parts the Ducati was better. It’s swings and roundabouts really and I just want to go out on Saturday and enjoy myself.’
TT Legends rider Simon Andrews is making his return to racing in Macau after his amazing recovery from the injuries he sustained in a high speed crash at the TT in June.
He posted an incredible seventh fastest time in qualifying on the Ice Valley Superstock-spec BMW and at one stage he had been up to fourth spot.
‘I really wanted to come back to Macau having missed the race last year and have worked my ass off to get back on the bike here.’ Simon said on Thursday.
A badly smashed and dislocated shoulder blade have left him still unable to use his right arm properly but Simon says it doesn’t interfere with ‘manhandling the bike around in a place like this.’
Although he was uncertain as to what role he will have with Honda in 2013, the 28 year old Worcestershire rider says he is fairly sure he will still be involved in ‘some way.’