PETER Hickman stamped further authority on his bid for another Suncity Group Macau Grand Prix win as he topped the first qualifying in dominant fashion.
The MGM By Bathams BMW rider backed up his opening practice form by once again beating Michael Rutter to the top spot with an advantage of more than 1.7sec.
Rutter was quickest to the top of the times with his opening lap as he led Brian McCormack and Ian Hutchinson, but when they hit the start-finish line to complete the second flyer it was Hickman back in control with a 2’28.399, less than a quarter of a second ahead of Rutter.
Irishman Derek Sheils, Ian Hutchinson and Davey Todd soon slotted into the top five, but all eyes were still on Hickman as he continued to clock the quickest sectors of the week en route to a scorching 2’26.672 to boost his advantage.
PBM Ducati’s David Johnson was the only other man under the 2’30 barrier with just over 10 minutes completed, while team-mate John McGuinness and Ashcourt man Lee Johnston moved ahead of RK/Burrows Suzuki rider Sheils to round out the top five with laps in the 2’30s.
Meanwhile, it came as little surprise to see Hickman further raise the bar and skirt the 2’25 bracket with a 2’26.075, bringing his lead to almost two seconds over RCV-mounted Rutter.
Eight-time Macau winner Rutter chopped half a second off his deficit, but was still unable to break into the 2’26s to join his Bathams compatriot.
With 25 minutes to go, Horst Saiger nudged Johnston back to sixth while Gary Johnson and Finn Erno Kostamo cracked the top 10, sandwiching ninth-placed Irishman Michael Sweeney, but most of front-runners were still in the pits.
But Hickman headed back out with 16 minutes remaining and rocketed forward even further with a 2’25.100. He looked to be on for an even faster time, but traffic in sector two left him unable to boost his lap time and he headed back to the pits to end his session.
Back on track, Rutter tried to narrow the gap with six minutes to run as he clocked a 2’26.838, but it wasn’t enough to stop Hickman from another session lead.
McGuinness and David Johnson both set 2’27s to bag third and fourth, while Saiger and Sheils rounded out the top six.
Johnston, Penz13 rider Todd, Didier Grams and Kostamo rounded out the top 10 while JGH Racing’s Rob Hodson and Handtrans/Lee Jackson BMW rider Phil Crowe were no more than half a second behind in 11th and 12th.
One final qualifying session will run at 23:30 UK time tonight to confirm the grid for Saturday morning’s race.
*Image: Sports Bureau Macao