Macau Grand Prix: Final Qualifying

Posted: 17th November 2017

Glenn Irwin record lap puts Ducati on pole – Pete Hickman, BMW, second – Micheal Rutter, BNW, third - Rain forecast for race tomorrow

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This just in from the circuit press office:

Irwin Storms to Record Pole

In the second and definitive qualifying session for the Suncity Group Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix – 51stEdition, Glenn Irwin (TAK CHUN Racing by PBM/Penz13 Ducati) once again tore up the record books, charging into pole position ahead of 2015 and 2016 winner Peter Hickman (SMT/Bathams by MGM Macau BMW), the gap between them 1.8 seconds.  

Irwin's lap time of 2m23.081 shattered the previous qualifying lap record of 2m23.714 set by Michael Rutter (SMT/Bathams by MGM Macau BMW) back in 2010, and was also below the race record of 2m23.616 set by Stuart Easton the same year, and makes Irwin the first rider from Northern Ireland to start the race from pole position since Phillip McCallen in 1996.  

Once again Irwin seemed to find the empty racetrack so vital to fast laps around the 6.2km Guia Circuit - the long middle sector (3.14km) makes up more than half the distance and a clear run through here is essential for a good time.  Irwin's 1m30.730 on his best - and best-looking - lap was the decisive factor.    

Traffic through the hills was one of the things that hampered Hickman and several other riders as well, including Martin Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles BMW) and Rutter. The eight-time Macao winner had a few issues during the session and never found the space to stretch the bike to its full potential. Third place puts him on the front row of the grid for a race that nobody expects to run at the same pace, and which Hickman especially hopes will be decided by tyres as much as anything else.  

Conor Cummins (Padgett’s Motorcycles Honda) made a late bid for the top three but when the flag dropped at the end of the session the Manxman was fourth, with Jessopp fifth ahead of Australian David Johnson (Four Anjels Racing BMW).  

After two troubled sessions yesterday Lee Johnston (RST Racing BMW) produced a good time to be seventh, and Horst Saiger (Saiger-Racing Kawasaki) took eighth. Derek Sheils showed the same early form as he had in the previous two sessions, but the Cookstown Burrows Engineering Racing Suzuki was no match for Irwin's Ducati and the BMW brigade, and he ended the session ninth, just ahead of Gary Johnson (Briggs Equipment Kawasaki) in tenth place.  

The forecast for Saturday hints at rain in Macao but, whatever the weather, it's going to be stormy on track when the Suncity Group Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix – 51st Edition gets under way.

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Words: Martin Gelder, Photos Macau Grand Prix