Peter Hickman (Briggs Equipment BMW) took a spectacular win at the 49th Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix in a race that was closer than the final margin of 6.2 seconds would make it appear.
Second place for Martin Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles BMW) was scant reward for his hard work and pace throughout the weekend. Convincingly fastest in qualifying and warm-up, he took a gamble on opening enough of an early advantage on a softer tyre to maintain his lead to the end of 12 laps, but by half-distance the dice had fallen in Hickman’s favour and Jessopp had no reply, though he was far enough ahead of the rest of the field that his second place was never under threat.
After a 12-lap battle, Michael Rutter (Penz13.com BMW) finished third, adding to his vast array of silverware earned at Macau but missing out on increasing his record 8-win tally by just under ten seconds – that was the margin between first and third places on an afternoon when a dozen riders all tried their hardest to get on the podium.
Said Hickman: “It feels absolutely fantastic! This is only my second time in Macau. I’ve not been doing the road racing scene for very long, but my British Superbike championships have been pretty strong the last couple of years. It’s fantastic to be able to transfer between the two. We all knew from the qualifying and practices that Martin [Jessopp] was really strong, and the pace that he had compared to everyone else seemed too much, to be quite honest. I was on the Dunlop tyres and [Jessopp and Rutter] are on different, so we knew that we were going to be strong for the second half of the race, and I figured that Martin was going to pull away in the first five or six laps and then hopefully we’d come back to him. Martin put in such a fast lap. I thought, I just need to be clean, don’t make any mistakes and just be as fast as I can. As soon as I had a chance, I was close enough at Lisboa and I passed him straight away. Fortunately the plan worked.”
Throughout the race Rutter was involved in a ferocious battle with a virtual who’s who of motorcycle road racing, swapping places with Gary Johnson on another of the Team Penzkofer bikes, with 2013 winner Ian Hutchinson (Paul Bird Kawasaki) occasionally intruding in his attempts to get on the third step of the podium. Meanwhile, Honda duo John McGuinness and Conor Cummins held a watching brief that was never more than fractions of a second behind as the race unfolded through an unbroken sequence of dramatic laps.
It was the seasoned McGuinness, the most successful road racer of his generation, who provided the final thrills, swooping past Gary Johnson on the wrong side of the tarmac at the endless left-hander of Dona Maria in a move worthy of a bid for victory, easily the most breathtaking moment in thirty minutes of exceptional racing.