DEFENDING winner Peter Hickman will start Saturday’s Suncity Macau Grand Prix from pole position after holding off a charging Michael Rutter this morning.
After scorching up the fastest time of the week in first qualifying with a 2’25.100, Hickman looked as if he was set to relax for the final qualifying before his MGM by Bathams compatriot fired in a final effort to end just a quarter of a second off pole position.
Rutter was fastest out of the gates as he powered the Honda RCV to a 2’27.604 while Hickman was caught up in traffic as the eight-time winner and Davey Todd were the only riders under the 2’30 mark with 10 minutes completed.
But the provisional pole-sitter still managed to clock a 2’26.655 to grab the lead before Xavier Denis’ stopped bike forced the yellow flags out.
While Hickman immediately hit the pits, Rutter stayed out and tried to go even faster as Tak Chun PBM Ducati’s John McGuinness set a 2’27.783, trailing Rutter by less than two tenths of a second with Ashcourt’s Lee Johnston and the second PBM bike of David Johnson close in tow.
McGuinness looked like he was up for a fight as he dropped into the 2’26s with a ‘26.999 to move into second spot, but it was Rutter who leap-frogged the TT legend and went ahead of team-mate Hickman with just over 20 minutes to go as he powered to a 2’26.383, though still almost a second off Hickman’s quickest time from this morning.
With some 15 minutes remaining, Aussie Johnson pipped Rutter by just 0.115sec to go quickest and as the clock wound down to eight to go, Hickman finally broke free of traffic and began setting about a hot lap, briefly taking the lead with a 2’26.170 before Johnson snatched it back with a 2’26.093.
But veteran Rutter wasn’t finished and his 11th-hour time of 2’25,382 – just 0.282sec behind Hickman – was good enough to pip Johnson for the lead and bag Rutter second on the grid just seconds after the chequered flag flew.
McGuinness’ flyer puts him a provisional fourth on the grid ahead of Lee Johnston and Horst Saiger and Erno Kostamo.
Gary Johnson, Handtrans rider Phil Crowe and Milwaukee BMW’s Ian Hutchinson round out the top 10 in session,
*Image: Sports Bureau Macao