Roads: British stars set for Macau Grand Prix
The 50th Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix begins in the Chinese city on Thursday morning with the opening practice session. Riders from the British Isles dominate the 2016 field, comprising 22 of the 28 starters.
2015 winner Peter Hickman rides with the No.1 plate as one third of an impressive SMT/Bathams BMW line-up. Alongside team mates Michael Rutter and Stuart Easton the Hickman led squad can boast 13 Macau victories.
“I’ve only got one of those wins as Stuart has four and Michael has eight.” Hickman said as he completed his final preparations for the opening session.
“I haven’t ridden a BMW (Briggs/RAF Reserves) since I won on one here last year but I think I can be somewhere near the front this year.”
The 30 year old, who raced a ZX10R Kawasaki in GB Moto colours in this season’s BSB series, will ride a S1000RR that has a significantly different set-up to the bikes of his team mates. Running Dunlop tyres and Ohlins suspension in comparison to the Metzeler rubber and K Tech suspension favoured by Rutter and Easton, the Burton on Trent rider is very aware that tyres played a determining role in last year’s result. Hickman reeled in early leader Martin Jessopp in 2015 after the Yeovil man’s Riders Motorcycles BMW’s Metzelers began to lose grip at half distance.
Hickman, who says he prefers Dunlop rubber, is adamant his victory was more the result of careful race planning.
“I did a full race run on my tyres during practice and qualifying so everything was planned around the race distance.” he said.
“I knew my tyres would last and I always go better in the second half of a race. The hotter it is this weekend the better it will be for the Dunlops because it takes longer for them to warm up too.”
Four time Macau winner Easton will be having his first outing on a BMW at Macau, leaving the diminutive Scot with a steep learning curve in a race that has just one practice session and two qualifying runs before Saturday’s race.
Michael Rutter, Macau’s most successful rider, arrives in in the Far East off the back of a strong finale to his season in the British Superstock championship where a trio of podium finishes in the last three rounds was topped by victory in his last outing at Brands Hatch.
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The SMT/Batham’s squad will face strong opposition from Ian Hutchinson on the Tyco BMW who wants to end his 2016 season with a ninth international road race win. It would be a fitting finale for the three time 2016 TT winner at the end of a stunning season that has seen him finish off the podium only once in all the road and British championship events he competed in.
Former TT winner and Macau podium finisher, Gary Johnson will be on yet another BMW, this time in Penz13.com colours.
Although most of the money wagered in the famous gambling city will probably be laid on one of these four riders to take the 2016 win, the BMW domination will be sternly challenged by the factory Honda duo of John McGuinness and Conor Cummins.
Ivan Lintin (RC Express) and Austrian, Horst Saiger (Swiss Moto) will also lead the Kawasaki challenge.
With the bikes due out on the fearsome Armco lined 3.8 mile Guia circuit at 7.30 am on Thursday morning, the nerves of newcomers Derek Sheils (Burrows Suzuki), Danny Webb (Penz13.com BMW), Dan Heggarty (Kawasaki) and BSB star Glenn Irwin on the Be Wiser/ PBM Ducati will be jangling.
Grid positions are determined by two qualifying sessions on Friday before Saturday’s 12 lap race.