Fans and spectators looked to Macau on Saturday in the hope of seeing a special race to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix and what they got was a classic confrontation from the greatest road racers in the world, with Britain’s Peter Hickman (Bathams/SMT BMW) snatching a last-gasp win in a race packed with last-gasp moments.
Pole man Martin Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles BMW) didn’t get the start he needed to secure his first victory on the Guia Circuit, and Michael Rutter (Bathams/SMT BMW) seized the moment, streaking off the line in pursuit of win number nine, with newcomer Glenn Irwin (Be Wiser Ducati) also getting away well and Hickman making a great start from the next row.
But Jessopp wasn’t done and soon became the focal point of a battle which raged throughout the opening laps, four riders in a two-second spread; Rutter, Irwin and Jessopp swapping places in the slipstream and under brakes in all the classic overtaking spots, with Hickman right behind.
A box-full of neutrals braking into Lisboa sent Jessopp back to fourth and lucky to be upright, but he was soon back on the pace and back up to battle Hickman for second-place honours. This nose-to-tail battle looked like going all the way to the end when fuel problems sent Irwin into the pits to retire.
With a couple of laps to go Hickman swept past Rutter on Dunlop tyres that were in better condition than his rival’s Metzlers, and after that he was never challenged for the win, although Rutter was hounded all the way to the flag by a determined Martin Jessopp. But Rutter never wavered, and as the crowd rose to its feet the trio crossed the line with less than a second separating them, Hickman the winner by half a second, Rutter a mere tenth ahead of Jessopp.
Commenting on the race result Jessopp said “one issue cost me the win but fairplay to Pete [Hickman] and Michael [Rutter]. The pace was insane for a road race!”
After the race, Hickman acknowledged that he had just won his most difficult race ever and thanked the all team for their role.
“What a hard race that was. I knew I would be strong at the end. I got away fast and was hoping they’d start to [fall behind] about halfway through the race. They didn’t and I really had to dig in,” said Hickman.
Slightly behind the front trio was Conor Cummins (Honda) in the fastest of the non-
BMW´s followed by Horst Saiger, the Liechtenstein rider who has progressively improved each year racing in Macau. In this year’s 50th edition, Saiger put on a great performance not even dented by a crash at Lisboa during the second qualifying session, which fortunately resulted in nothing more than a few bruises. RM