Macau GP: Rutter fastest in first practice as tropical storm strikes
Michael Rutter used all of his Macau experience to set the fastest lap in the opening practice session for Saturday's race when he will try to win a record seventh Macau Grand Prix on the Ridersmotorcycles.com Ducati.
It could also prove to be a crucial tactical move as a tropical storm brought heavy rain to Macau, forcing the afternoon practice to be cancelled. More rain is forecast for Friday and with just one practice session scheduled for Friday morning the time posted today could determine Saturday's grid positions.
"It was dustier than usual and there are a couple of places that are bumpier than last year but I knew that rain was on its way." Rutter said afterwards. "So I had it in mind that this morning's times could be more important than usual."
Rutter's Ducati was to be run in the Team of Paris livery but problems with finance mean it will run in the familiar Riders colours instead.
The 39 year old was 1.25 secs quicker than American Jeremy Toye on a Paul Bird prepared IGT Kawasaki ZX10.
Ian Hutchinson, riding a Swan Yamaha R1 for the first time in competition since his huge crash at Silverstone in September 2010 left him with terrible leg injuries, posted a brilliant third best time.
"Yeah, its straight into a hard circuit, its an all action place." the Bingley man reflected. "But to be honest I wasn't even thinking about the leg at all."
It was a remarkable performance given that he has to use a right hand gear change because of difficulty lifting his left foot but he is determined that he isn't in China just for holiday.
"I am on the front row of the grid and I am here to win." he stated. "I won't be going banzai but I want to do the business."
It was a good morning for the British contingent with British riders filling seven of the top ten places. With the first drops of rain starting to fall as the last bikes pulled off the track at the end of the session the afternoon qualifying was cancelled and a slightly extended final practice was announced for Friday morning. There will be many anxious faces peering out from behind the hotel curtains at 6am on Friday as newcomers like the Dunlop brothers, William and Michael, struggle to learn the course in their debut year at Macau. William had a baptism of fire when he slid off the Craig Honda at Fisherman's but he was unhurt in the incident.