Glenn Irwin showed potential at last year’s debut in Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix and when interviewed by the Times, he said he felt that he could win the race this year. Irwin is well- placed to fulfill his wish as he topped the fierce competition to take the provisional pole position for the 51st edition of the Macau Motorcycle GP.
Irwin, the man from Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland, clocked a time of 2:24.310, riding a well-functioning Ducati in the first qualifying session, held yesterday afternoon.
Although there is still one qualifying session of 45 minutes remaining in the early morning today, Irwin’s latest time certainly puts him in a comfortable position to start the race on Saturday.
But, that advantage did not come easily. In the process, Irwin fought a shoulder-to- shoulder battle with eight-time winner Michael Rutter, who forced Irwin to reduce his times as much as possible.
Rutter ended the session in second place with a time of 2:25.777 – that is, roughly 1.5 seconds slower than Irwin.
Following Rutter was his teammate, Peter Hickman, who was also the winner of the last two editions. Hickman has also been a close contender in the competition between Rutter and Irwin.
Hickman begins today just half a second behind Rutter. He will surely try to reduce or overlap that difference in the second qualifying session. Nevertheless, the trio are expected to be in fierce competition.
Clocking in at fourth place was Connor Cummins, who managed to squeeze himself ahead of Jessop, pushing him into fifth place.
Cummins finished last year’s race in fourth place overall, from a starting position of ninth place, putting him in a much more comfortable position that would allow him to take advantage of any mistakes by the trio in front.
Martin Jessop, in fifth place, clocked 2:27.631, almost two seconds slower than his performance last year.
Mention should also be made of Derek Sheils’s performance, which has been increasingly improving around the Guia circuit. Last year, Sheils started from the 13th position of the grid, but improved his time from the first qualifying session to the second by more than one second. Finishing with a best lap time of 2:28.070, time bettered this year clocking entering on the 27th second (2:27.957). If he manages to improve this time or maintain his current performance on it, we could see him finishing with no surprise on the top five this year, after having finished ninth in 2016.
All things are possible, and with all these uncertainties and close rivalries, this year’s competition promises to be an adrenaline-fueled race from start to finish.
The grand finale is scheduled for this Saturday at 3:40 p.m.