2013 Macau Grand Prix winner, Ian Hutchinson will start the defence of his title on Thursday morning as the opening practice session for the 2014 gets under way on the 3.8 mile Guia armoc-lined roads circuit in the Chinese city.
Having swapped team’s from Milwaukee Yamaha to Paul Bird’s Kawasaki outfit mid season, Hutchinson will have Shane Byrne’s BSB title winning ZX10 at his disposal in Macau.
“The bike is the way that Shakey left it after he won the title at Brands.” the Bingley Bullet told MCN in pit lane this afternoon as he stretched his new leathers.
“The engine had to be taken out for scrutineering after Brands and I did a full day of testing on the bike at Snetterton with another engine before the team rebuilt Shakey’s motor and put it back in for here.”
Hutchinson’s main opposition in Saturday’s 12 lap race is likely to come from his PBM team mate, Stuart Easton and eight times Macau winner, Michael Rutter. Easton is making a return to Macau for the first time since his North West 200 crash in 2011. The Hawick racer dominated the Chinese meeting from 2008 until 2010 and he will enjoy the advantage of riding the familiar ZX10 he campaigned in the BSB championship this season.
On the other hand it will be a step into the unknown for Michael Rutter. The Birmingham man will be mounted on the Milwaukee YZF R1 Yamaha that Hutchy raced to his maiden Macau victory last year having split from his Batahms BMW team two months ago. But the most successful rider in Macau GP history will be able to call upon all of his vast experience of racing on the Far Eastern circuit.
21 times TT winner and 2001 Macau champion, John McGuinness, takes over the RAF Reserves Honda that Peter Hickman raced in the second half of the 2014 BSB championship. The Fireblade will be run in ProBolt colours in Macau as Hickman is reunited with the superstock spec Ice Valley BMW S1000RR that he has used to establish the fastest ever newcomer laps at the North West 200, the Isle of Man TT and the Ulster Grand Prix in 2014.
Former Macau podium finisher, Jeremy Toye, is the first casualty of the 2014 event before a wheel has even been turned. The American left China for an early holiday in Thailand yesterday after his bike was impounded by US customs and failed to be delivered to Macau on time. Toye’s nonappearance leaves the 2014 Macau entry list with an even greater UK dominated appearance.
Gary Johnson, a 2014 Supersport TT winner and the third place finisher in last year’s Macau GP, will ride a Quattro Plant Honda Fireblade and Pirtek Lee Johnston will be mounted on a similar machine. Steve Mercer will race the same Penz13.com BMW that Michael Dunlop used to win the feature race at the Frohburg road meeting in September.
Dunlop has withdrawn from the race as James McBride (JV Racing Yamaha), Paul Shoesmith (Ice Valley BMW), Stephen Thompson (Penz13.com BMW),Jamie Hamilton (Wilson Craig Honda), Steve Heneghan (Quattro Plant Kawasaki), Davy Morgan (CMS Racing Honda), Graham English (TIVA BMW), Martin Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles BMW) and DMR Racing BMW pair Jimmy Storrar and Dan Cooper make up the rest of the UK contingent on the grid.
North West 200 Superstock lap record holder, Horst Saiger from Austria, is likely to be the strongest of the other European contenders on his ZX Kawasaki.
Tradition will be broken for Thursday morning’s opening practice session as the superbikes, which have normally been the first machines competing on the Guia circuit each year, will now follow the World Touring Cars practice at 8am. The 45 minute opening qualifying session will begin later in the day at 3.55pm.
Final qualifying is scheduled for Friday morning at 7.30am and the 12 lap race will be run on Saturday afternoon with a 3.30pm scheduled start time.