PETER Hickman fired a warning shot in the opening Suncity Macau Grand Prix session this morning as he dominated free practice by more than a second.
The MGM by Bathams BMW rider led almost the entire hour-long session to set the benchmark and keep his RCV-mounted team-mate Michael Rutter at bay by some 1.052sec.
Unsurprisingly after a few riders topped the early times, Hickman blasted to the head of the order with his opening lap of 2:34 and quickly set about clocking more quick sectors to bolster his standing.
PBM Ducati man John McGuinness slotted into second while Horst Saiger went third fastest, but it wasn’t long before the Austrian slipped ahead of the TT legend to take over the runner-up spot.
With just under 40 minutes to run, however, JGH Racing’s Rob Hodson went fourth fastest before rocketing into second, only pipped by Ashcourt rider Gary Johnson who took the runner-up spot on the carbon-clad BMW HP4, less than a second off Hickman’s 2:33.0.
Just before the half-way point in the session Johnson jumped up to the top spot, but Hickman was making his way out of the pits again and looking for another hot lap.
While McGuinness topped the leader board a few minutes later, Hickman stamped his authority with a 2:30.355 before upping the ante to a 2:29.230 a couple of laps later as Rutter continued to climb up the order, slotting in behind McGuinness with a 2:32.026 and nudging Johnson back to fourth.
It was an even quicker lap for Hickman the next time around as he laid down a 2:28.976, cracking last year’s quickest Free Practice time of 2:29 and smashing his previous lap before sticking in a 2:28.007 as he continued to set the pace.
With 13 minutes to go, the second PBM Ducati of David Johnson leap-frogged his team-mate McGuinness with a 2:30.949 to take over second spot just before Saiger knocked McGuinness down a further peg to move into the top three.
Back in the battle for the top spot, Aussie Johnson finally cracked the 2:30 barrier with eight minutes to run, but the V4 rider was still over 1.6sec off Hickman’s quickest time.
While Johnson was in the pits, Rutter made his way back out and clawed back time on his MGM by Bathams compatriot as he clocked a 2:29.059, but his best still wasn’t enough to keep Hickman from the top as the chequered flag waved on the first practice.
Johnson ended the session third ahead of McGuinness and Saiger, while Ashcourt boys Lee Johnston and Gary Johnson finished sixth and seventh.
Didier Grams, Hodson and Finnish rider Erno Kostamo rounded out the top 10 while Handtrans/Lee Jackson BMW man Phil Crowe clocked the 11th fastest time, beating SMT BMW’s former winner Ian Hutchinson.
Riders are back out on track around 8am UK time this morning for first qualifying.