Roads: Rutter tops opening qualifying in Macau
Michael Rutter topped the time sheets in the opening qualifying session for the 50th Macau Grand Prix in China on the SMT/Bathams BMW.
The eight times Macau winner had already been fastest in the early morning practice session before taking a further 2.3 seconds off his previous time to claim provisional pole with a 2 min 24.793 second lap.
“It was also the hottest it has been here for a long time and the track was in great condition today right from the start. the 44 year old smiled.
“I had no moments at all, everything went fine.”
But Rutter, who is riding in his 22nd Macau Grand Prix on the race’s 50th birthday, expects the times to be even faster on Friday morning final session.
“It will get quicker, definitely.” he said.
“Everyone wants to win!”
Last year’s runner up, Martin Jessopp was almost a second slower than Rutter on the Rider’s Motorcycle BMW.
“I am riding my TT bike here rather the BSB spec BMW I ride most of the time and the electronics are a lot different.” the Yeovil man explained.
“I am trying to get used to that but we are already ahead of schedule from where we were at this point last year.”
“To get a good time around here you have to have a clear run and I ran into a bit of traffic on San Fransisco Hill and had to pass someone flat out in fourth on a piece of tarmac I would rather not have been on!”
Jessopp makes no secret of the fact that he wants to win Macau this year after numerous podium finishes in the Chinese race.
“Yes, I would be disappointed if I don’t win this year but then I am every year.” he said.
Both Rutter and Jessopp using qualifier tyres to set their fastest lap, explaining the 2.5 second gap to Tyco BMW’s Ian Hutchinson in third.
“It is my first time here on the BMW and we have had to make quite a lot of changes to the bike.” Hutchy explained.
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“We do have a tyre that is made for these hot conditions but I wasn’t able to get any benefit from it as I was in and out of the pits.”
Last year’s Macau winner Peter Hickman was 9th fastest, over four seconds slower than his SMT/Bathams BMW teammate, Rutter but he says he is unconcerned at this stage.
“This is the first time I have ridden a BMW since I won on one here last year.” he explained.
“I am on the back foot and today was really a test session for me. The bike is so different from the Kawasaki I rode this year so it is softly softly at this stage.”
“I am just understanding the bike and finding out how I want it set up. I don't want to rush and find myself in a wall.”
In a race that is being billed as a tyre battle between Dunlop and Metzeler, John McGuinness was the fastest Dunlop rider in fourth and Honda teammate Conor Cummins was 8th. Gary Johnson was fifth on the Penz13.com BMW just ahead of the only non-British rider in the top ten, Horst Saiger in sixth.
Macau newcomer Glenn Irwin was a sensational seventh fastest on the Be Wiser/PBM Ducati with four time Macau winner Stuart Easton rounding out the top ten on the third SMT/Bathams BMW.