The Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix will complete the 2018 road racing season this week and is set to welcome back a trio of former winners who between them have no less than 11 wins to their name.
Indeed, with an international line-up of 28 of the world’s top road racers, a combination of experience and up-and-coming talent, the 12-lap race around the legendary 3.8-mile Guia street circuit will certainly be one to watch.
Rutter and RCV Honda add spice to line-up
Taking place this Saturday, eight-time winner Michael Rutter leads the charge as he looks to extend his record number of wins to nine, 20 years after his first victory in 1998. He reunites with Peter Hickman, winner in 2015 and 2016, in the new Aspire-Ho by Bathams Racing team.
However, Rutter, third last year, will ride an exotic Honda RCV213-S for the first time having recently completed some shakedown tests at Donington Park and Brands Hatch and will look to get back on to the top step for the first time since 2012.
“Bruce Anstey has shown at the Ulster GP and TT that the bike can be competitive and although Macau’s a very different circuit to those two, we should be able to utilise many of the bikes’ characteristics,” said Rutter.
“It’s a good few kilos lighter than the BMW which will help with the changes in direction through the hills whilst it won’t be far away with top end speed down towards Lisboa. It’s certainly something different and we needed to do something to try and beat Peter as he’s a good few years younger than me and is riding at the top of his game.“
Hickman the favourite?
Team mate and fellow Briton Hickman lines up on his familiar BMW S1000RR as he chases a Macau hat-trick. Having recently finished fifth overall in the British Superbike Championship, the 31-year old is, arguably, the favourite on the back of a season that has seen him set a new outright lap record at the Isle of Man TT en route to his Senior TT win, as well as victories at the Ulster Grand Prix.
Despite taking two wins and a second in the last three years at Macau, Hickman isn’t taking anything for granted though, with his focus once more on consistency as he looks to make it win number three.
“I’m looking forward to going back and I’m with the same team and same crew with a bike that’s more developed than it was twelve months ago so I think we’re in a good place. The combination of the BMW, the Dunlop tyres and myself is a good package and although I struggled a bit in 2016 through the twisty sections, we improved that in 2017 and my aim will again to be fast over the 12 laps and not just one.”
“In both of the years I won, I wasn’t the fastest rider but I was the most consistent and that, for me, is the key. In 2016, I qualified back in seventh but I use the practice time to set the bike up for the full 12-lap race distance rather than just half a dozen. The race isn’t always about ultimate speed and people sometimes forget that.”
McGuinness returns as Saiger leads European charge
Having missed the race last year due to injury, 2001 winner John McGuinness makes a welcome return where he’ll be on board a Ducati 1199 Panigale, as will his Tak Chun Group by PBM team mate Martin Jessopp.
It will be McGuinness’ first fully competitive Superbike race in exactly two years and whilst he’s not expecting to win, it’s a golden opportunity to get back into his racing as he looks to make a full comeback in 2019.
Meanwhile, fourth at Macau last year, Jessopp, who took his debut win at this year’s North West 200, has reached the Macau podium on no less than five occasions and will again be gunning for that elusive first victory.
Gary Johnson, third in 2013 and sixth last year, is back with Briggs Equipment Kawasaki, whilst Australian David Johnson also returns, this time riding a BMW for Liverpool-based PR Racing.
Horst Saiger who makes his 11th visit, this time on a Yamaha R1, spearheads mainland Europe’s challenge with the Austrian having taken three top six finishes since 2012 and he’ll be joined by another potential top six finisher in the form of Germany’s Didier Grams (G&G Motorsport by BMW Motorrad).
Record number of newcomers
With a number of riders of recent years missing from the line-up for various reasons, 2018 sees a record ten newcomers on the grid with this season’s sensation Davey Todd leading the way on the Penz13.com BMW. The former Pirelli National Superstock 600 Championship race winner made a sensational first appearance at the Isle of Man this year and has impressed at all of the road race meetings in 2018.
Dominic Herbertson and Paul Jordan will join forces at Dafabet Devitt Racing Kawasaki, having impressed for the team at the Ulster Grand Prix, with fellow debutantes Manxman Andrew Dudgeon and Lincolnshire’s Craig Neve, campaigning BMW machinery for VRS Racing and CN Racing respectively.
Fellow Britons, Rob Hodson and Phillip Crowe will also be BMW S1000RR-mounted as will Daley Mathison whilst the other debutantes are popular Spaniard Raül Torras Martinez (Martimotos Yamaha) and 27-year-old Erno Kostamo (Markka Racing by Penz13 BMW), the first Finnish rider to compete at Macau since Eero Hyvarinen who scored a number of top ten finishes at the event in the 1980s.
Having started watching motorcycle races all over the world form childhood, Phil Wain has been a freelance motorcycle journalist for 15 years and is features writer for a number of publications including BikeSport News and Classic Racer, having also been a regular contributor to MCN and MCN Sport. He is PR officer for a number of teams and riders at both the British Superbike Championship and International road races, including Smiths Triumph, Quattro Plant Kawasaki, John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar and Keith Amor. He is also heavily involved with the Isle of Man TT Races, writing official press releases and race reports as well as providing ITV4 with statistical information.