Martin Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles BMW) will start in pole position for the 50th Macau Grand Prix on Saturday afternoon after pipping eight times Macau winner, Michael Rutter (SMT Bathams BMW) in Friday morning’s final qualifying session for the Chinese city race.
But it was Macau rookie, Glenn Irwin, who stunned the rest of the field by grabbing a front row start with third fastest time on the Be Wiser/PBM Ducati he raced in the 2016 BSB series.
“I was lying in bed last night watching on board videos to try to learn the track.” the Northern Irishman said after lapping 2.7 seconds quicker than he had in his first qualifying outing.
“I still need to improve on the middle section of the track where experience counts.”
Asked if he thought he could be on the podium in the race the 26 year old said “If we were all on the same tyre in the race I would just get stuck in and try to win but tyre management will be the big thing tomorrow.”
Jessopp steered his Riders Motorcycles BMW to a 2min 24.654 second lap, a time that secured pole by just 0.1 seconds from Rutter.
Jessop and Rutter agreed that tyre choice would be critical to the race result. All of the top six in qualifying were on Metzeler rubber with last year’s winner, Peter Hickman (SMT/Bathams BMW), the quickest Dunlop shod rider in seventh spot.
“Both Michael and I have been using the identical tyre set up in practice and qualifying.” Jessop said.
“I have to sit down with the team now and finalise our race set up.”
Jessopp, who was on pole last year and was leading the race when his Metzeler rear tyre went off.
“At the end of the day it is only qualifying.” Jessopp said.
“I was on pole last year and I didn’t win the race so we have to remember that.”
“We have plenty of tyre options to choose from.” Rutter explained.
“At the minute we have chosen a safe option but we need to wait and see what the conditions will be like on Saturday and we are looking at everyone else’s race tyre times too.”
“The race will be won by whoever gets off the start well and then keeps their tyres safe. We have learnt a lot from what happened last year.”
Although Jessopp and Rutter were the only riders to get down into the 2 min 24 seconds bracket, Jessopp doesn't think it will be a two horse race on Saturday.
“I think there will be a lot more people involved.” he explained.
“Peter Hickman, Stuart Easton, Ian Hutchinson and John McGuinness are all going well and are former Macau winners.”
Gary Johnson, who posted fourth fastest time on the Penz13.com BMW is also likely to be in the mix. Stuart Easton made a huge stride forward on the third SMT/Bathams BMW, clipping three seconds off his opening qualifying time, to claim fifth and Horst Saiger maintained his position as the fastest non-Brit in sixth. Easton’s team mate Peter Hickman was seventh fastest and Honda duo John McGuinness and Conor Cummins were eighth and ninth quickest.
Electronics problems on his Tyco BMW saw 2013 Macau winner Ian Hutchinson drop down to tenth on the starting line-up after being third quickest on Thursday.
The 12 lap race will be run on Saturday afternoon, starting at 3.30pm Macau time, 7.30am UK time.
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