Next week sees the 51st running of the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix and it should see a repeat of last year’s epic encounter with all of last year’s leading protagonists returning to the Guia circuit on November 16-18.
The Far East venue has seen some of the great names compete over the years including Mick Grant, Ron Haslam, Steve Hislop, Carl Fogarty and Phillip McCallen and it remains one of the highlights of the race week where it’s joined by numerous car races including Formula Three and Touring Cars.
Hickman favourite for victory?
It was Peter Hickman who came out on top twelve months ago and, having also won in 2015, he’ll be looking to make it a hat-trick. Continuing with BMW S1000RR power, the bike that took him to those two victories, the 30-year old has had a superb season, winning at the Ulster Grand Prix and picking up the Joey Dunlop Championship at the TT after five podiums, as well as taking a career best fourth overall in the British Superbike Championship, so will come into event as the undoubted favourite.
The Burton upon Trent rider will be reunited with Robin Croft’s SMT Racing/Bathams by MGM Macau outfit where his team-mate will again be the evergreen Michael Rutter. The record eight-time winner just missed out a ninth victory last year, finishing a close second to Hickman although that did extend is record number of podiums to 17.
Rutter and Jessopp to provide stiff opposition
Riding as well as ever, Rutter was victorious at both the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT in 2017 and took third in the Pirelli National Superstock 1000 Championship, so will be keen to get the better of Hickman this time around. Twenty years since his first podium around the 3.8-mile Guia circuit, the 45-year simply cannot be ruled out.
The final podium finisher in 2016, taking third, was Martin Jessopp and if anyone is deserving of a win it’s the Yeovil rider. Ever-present at the meeting for a decade, Jessopp has finished second on no less than three occasions and, with five podiums to his name, has the most podiums by a rider who has yet to taste the winner’s champagne. He too has enjoyed a strong season so will be gunning for glory in the Far East.
Irwin set to challenge for race win
Equally determined after a stunning debut last year will be Glenn Irwin. The Ulsterman was sensational in 2016 as he ran at the front with Hickman, Rutter and Jessopp until he was forced to retire on the penultimate lap but, having won at the North West 200 in May and taken his first BSB victory, everyone will be well aware of the threat the 27-year old poses on the Be Wiser Ducati.
Macau GP regular and previous podium finisher Gary Johnson (Reactive Parts Suzuki) will be hoping to end a disappointing season with a strong finish whilst other riders who have to be considered podium threats are Lee Johnston (East Coast Racing BMW), Conor Cummins (Padgetts Honda) and Horst Saiger (Saiger Racing Kawasaki) who should again be the leading rider from mainland Europe.
Just like other road races, the Penz13 BMW Motorrad team will have a three-pronged attack in the form of Dan Kneen, another rider to have a superb season, Danny Webb and Italian newcomer Alessandro Polita with David Johnson (Four Anjels Racing BMW) returning to the GP after missing last year’s meeting due to injury.
British and Irish riders again dominate the line-up with the world’s fastest road racer, Dean Harrison, looking for a strong showing on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki after mixed performances in the past at Macau. Also on the entry list are Dafabet Devitt Racing’s Ivan Lintin, Dan Hegarty, Dan Cooper, Sam West, Derek Sheils and leading German rider Didier Grams.
There are twenty-eight riders on the grid in total, but two riders sadly missing will be previous winners John McGuinness and Ian Hutchinson who are continuing to recover from their injuries sustained at the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT respectively.
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.