BMW Motorrad machinery was the smart choice for riders at the 49th Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix on Saturday 21 November, as all three podium spots were occupied by BMW S 1000 RR riders. In fact, from a field of 30 starters, four of the top five finishers were on BMWs, as were six of the top 10. The victory went to British rider Peter Hickman, who also claimed the fastest lap of the race. He was joined on the rostrum by fellow Brits and RR riders Martin Jessopp and Michael Rutter.
Held each year since 1967, the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix is recognised as one of the world’s leading international motorcycle road races. This year, once again the entry was truly international and included riders from Europe, America, Australia and South Africa. Among the 30 riders from 11 different countries and territories were no fewer than four previous winners, including some of the biggest names in international road racing such as John McGuinness, Ian Hutchinson, Michael Rutter and Stuart Easton.
Only one of these four road race legends – Michael Rutter – was on a BMW bike though, and the brand was still on the hunt for its first Macau win. Things looked good as qualifying progressed, where 2015 podium finisher Martin Jessop claimed his Maiden Macau Pole when he became the only rider to dip into the 2.24 bracket. He set his time of 2.24.387 midway through the session, and though several riders tried to match it as he circulated around the 6.2km Guia Circuit, only Michael Rutter (Penz 13.com BMW) came close, at 2.25.524.
Joining Jessopp on the front row was Peter Hickman on only his second visit to Macau, and challenging the accepted wisdom that it takes a minimum of three years to learn the circuit. The 28-year-old was delighted with his progress after going three seconds quicker on Friday than he had on Thursday’s opening qualifying session.
In fact, in dry conditions in the Saturday afternoon race it was Hickman who would dominate in the 12-lap thriller, taking a spectacular win at the 49th Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix in a battle that was closer than the final margin of 6.2 seconds suggests. Second place for Martin Jessopp on the 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.
“It feels absolutely fantastic!” said Hickman about his victory. “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 showed compared to everyone else seemed too much, to be quite honest. I was on the Dunlop tyres and they [Jessopp and Rutter] are on different ones, 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, not 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.”