Macau GP Hall of Fame
Welcome to the Macau GP Hall of Fame…
Hiroshi Hasegawa was a factory rider for Yamaha and began his Grand Prix career in 1963 with his first race coming in that year’s 250cc Isle of Man TT race. He only made four GP starts but claimed third place in the 1964 250cc Japanese Grand Prix and then took his solitary win in the same race two years later.
However, he made history in 1967 when he became the first rider to win the Macau motorcycle Grand Prix. Riding a Yamaha RD 56, the then 32-year old completed a punishing 30 laps of the Guia circuit in a time of 1hr53m34s. He repeated the feat the following year, getting the better of local rider John MacDonald.
Mick Grant was a factory Kawasaki rider when he made his debut at the Macau Grand Prix in 1977 and having already broken the outright lap records at both the North West 200 and TT on the ‘Green Meanies’ he did the same at Macau with a lap of 2m48.38s on his way to victory. He was back on the podium in 1982 when despite wet and windy conditions, he took second behind Ron Haslam, this time mounted on a factory Heron F1 Suzuki.
His final Macau appearance came in 1984 when still riding for Heron Suzuki although this time on board an RG500 Suzuki. The Yorkshire rider ensured it was a successful swansong as he won both legs to take overall victory followed by Roger Marshall on a Honda 500 and Mark Salle on a second Suzuki. Grant retired from racing, aged 40, at the end of the 1985 season going on to become a successful team manager for Suzuki.
Japanese rider Sadao Asami was the first rider to win three Macau Grand Prix races in a row, between 1978 and 1980, thus ensuring his place in the record books but he first came to notice in 1974 when he placed third behind fellow Yamaha riders Hiroyuki Kawasaki and Ikujiro Takai.
He didn’t appear on the podium again until 1978 by which time he was competing on the world stage in the 350cc and 750cc World Championships. He went on to finish ninth overall in the 1979 350cc World Championship and during his career also scored points in the 250cc and 500cc classes.
Back to Macau and in 1978, he took his first win coming home ahead of British riders Steve Parrish and Mike Trimby on his 750cc Yamaha. The following year the GP was held over two 15-lap legs for the first time and Asami won both to get the better of Parrish and Bernard Murray. And it was an identical result in 1980 when he made it three wins in a row. Bidding for a fourth successive title in 1981, Asami had to play second fiddle to Ron Haslam and his second place proved to be his sixth and final podium position.
For a long period of time, Ron Haslam was the most successful rider ever at the Macau Grand Prix and had a 100% winning record, starting the event six times and winning it six times. His first victory came on his debut in 1981 when he defeated three-time winner Sadao Asami on his Honda RS1123, thus becoming the first rider to win on a four-stroke. Continuing on the same Honda Britain machine in 1982, Haslam was victorious again, this time ahead of Mick Grant and team-mate Joey Dunlop.
For 1983, Haslam was on his works 500cc Grand Prix machine and made it three in a row with Dunlop this time in second and Roger Marshall in third. After a year away, the Derbyshire rider returned in 1985 to embark on another winning spree, first of all getting the better of fellow 500cc Honda rider Didier de Radigues in 1985. It was an identical result in 1986 and Haslam then wrapped up a remarkable career in 1987 when he took his sixth win in six starts. Riding the Elf Honda, he comfortably took the victory from Peter Rubatto and factory Yamaha rider Hiroyuki Kawasaki, winner of the event in 1974.
Didier De Radigues
Belgian rider de Radigues first found success in the 250cc and 350cc World Championships, finishing second overall in the former in 1982 and third overall in the latter in 1983. He took 12 podiums in total before moving into the 500cc class on a full-time basis in 1984. Riding factory machines for Honda, Yamaha, Cagiva and Suzuki, he took two podiums, at Silverstone in 1986 and at the Salzburgring in 1988. His best years came in 1986 and 1988 when he finished seventh overall before retiring at the end of the 1991 season after finishing eighth.
He made his Macau Grand Prix debut in 1985 riding a three cylinder Honda and pushed fellow Honda rider Ron Haslam close on his way to finishing second overall. It was a similar story the following year where, despite winning one of the two legs, Haslam got the verdict on aggregate time. After a five-year gap he returned for a third and final time in 1991 riding the factory RGV500 Lucky Strike Suzuki. It was the final race meeting of his career and he comfortably won both legs and also claimed a new outright lap record.
Scots ace Hislop had been victorious at the North West 200, Isle of Man TT and Ulster Grand Prix in 1989 when he made his Macau debut at the end of that year and although he couldn’t quite take the win, it was a good first time appearance with third overall behind fellow Honda riders Robert Dunlop and Phillip McCallen. A year later though, he completed the set as he stormed to victory on his RC30 Honda over Peter Rubatto. He was expected to win again in 1991 but a few hairy moments which saw him have a few close shaves with the Armco barriers meant he finished a subdued tenth overall.
However, he was back for more in 1993, this time on the 500cc ROC Yamaha Grand Prix bike. Showing his versatility and skill once more he duly took his second win over team-mate Robert Dunlop and then made it three wins a year later. On this occasion, he was riding the 500cc Harris Yamaha and took first and third in the two legs as he became, at the time, one of only three riders to have three wins or more. Victory was taken from fellow 500cc riders Mike Edwards and Phillip McCallen in what was his final appearance at the event.
With the longest career in Macau Grand Prix history – celebrating his 25th year in 2019 – Michael Rutter also has the most successful career with a record nine wins and 20 podiums, the most recent coming with another win in 2019. The first two years gave no indication of what lay ahead though as he failed to finish in both 1994 and 1995 but that all changed in 1996 when he placed third on a 750cc Kawasaki. Two years later, he grabbed his first win and became the first rider to break the 90mph barrier when he came home ahead of Honda Britain team-mate Ian Simpson, the pair on identical 750cc RC45 Honda’s.
Since then, it’s been success after success for the Midlands rider with his second victory coming in 2000 on a 750cc R7 Yamaha. Absent from the meeting in 2001 (the only year he’s missed the event since making his debut), he was back to winning ways in 2002 this time on a Ducati 998, repeating the result in 2003. He then switched to Honda to take two more wins in 2004 and 2005, thus becoming the only rider to win four races in a row.
That gave him six wins in total to equal Ron Haslam’s record but he had to wait until 2011 before he finally bettered it, the win this time coming on a 1098cc Ducati. He then switched back to Honda in 2012 to take his eighth win, subsequently finishing second in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2018 and third in 2015 and 2017 to further prove his accolade as the undisputed ‘King of Macau’. A ninth victory came in 2019 although the race result was declared after just one lap was completed.
At 19 years, John McGuinness has a slightly shorter Macau Grand Prix career than Michael Rutter and although he only has the one win to his name, he has the second highest tally of podiums with eight as well as a whole host of leaderboard finishes.
He made his debut in 1998 on a 500cc NSR Honda and was immediately successful taking third behind the Superbikes of Rutter and Ian Simpson. Fourth on the same machine in 2000, he stood on the top step in 2001 when he rode a Honda Fireblade to victory over Roger Bennett and good friend David Jefferies. For the next four years though, he had to play second fiddle to Rutter and finished in second place in each of those years.
Second was yet again the outcome in 2007 when only backmarkers prevented him from making an overtaking attempt on eventual race winner Steve Plater whilst third was taken in 2008. This was the last time he stood on the podium but in the intervening years he has always been in the mix taking seven top seven finishes, including fourth in 2015 and seventh in 2016.
Steve Plater made a low-key Macau debut in 1998 when, riding a NSR 500 Honda, carburettor problems meant he failed to finish the race. He was back in 2003, setting a new 600cc lap record and when he returned in 2006, he was a man on a mission. Indeed, having proven his road racing credentials at the North West 200, he was very much the man to beat that year. Taking riding around the Guia circuit to a whole new level, Plater fought tooth and nail with Michael Rutter, the duo smashing the lap record before Plater ultimately got the verdict, thus ending Rutter’s winning spree.
In 2007, Plater was again mounted on the AIM Racing Yamaha R1 and on this occasion, the Lincolnshire rider went head to head with John McGuinness with the duo nose to tail throughout. On the 15th and final lap, the pair encountered backmarkers at the Melco Hairpin and it was Plater who nipped through first to seal his second successive win. In what was a brief, but successful, Macau Grand Prix career, 2007 was his final year at the event.
Following in the footsteps of fellow Hawick resident Steve Hislop, Macau was the first real road race Stuart Easton took part in when, aged just 19, he rode the 748 Monstermob Ducati to first place in the 600cc class in 2002, placing 18th overall. He moved onto the Superbike version for the following two years placing fifth in 2003 and taking his first podium in 2004 with third. After a year’s absence, he was back in 2006 and had another strong showing in fourth.
However, it was between 2008 and 2010 when he really came to the fore as he took a hat-trick of victories, the first two for Shaun Muir’s Honda team and the latter riding a WSB-spec Kawasaki ZX-10R for Paul Bird Motorsport whom he’d ridden for at the event between 2002 and 2006, except 2003 when he rode the ETI Ducati. The lap record was broken in 2009 and 2010 and although he was again absent between 2011 and 2013, for various reasons, he was on the entry list once more in 2014. He dominated the race on the PBM Kawasaki to take his fourth win and thus become the third most successful rider in the history of the event. He failed to finish in 2015 but took a solid sixth in 2016 and remains the outright lap record holder.
Hickman made an inauspicious Macau debut in 2014 when problems in practice ruled him out of the race but, just as he had done at all the International road races, he proved he was a quick learner and when he returned in 2015, he immediately took the race win, coming home a commanding 6.2s clear of Martin Jessopp.
Continuing with BMW machinery in 2016, the Burton upon Trent rider then made it two wins in a row in 2016 as he got the better of Michael Rutter and Jessopp although it was a lot closer this time around as less than three quarters of a second covered the top three at the chequered flag. Second was then taken in 2017 behind Glenn Irwin although the race was stopped early just as he was looking to pounce.
Hickman then joined a select group of riders in 2018 when he won for the third time, his fourth podium in four years, and thus became one of just six riders to win the race three times or more. He looked set to take a fourth win in 2019 after opening up a seven second lead but the race was subsequently stopped due to a crash on the fourth lap and the re-start was just a lap old when it was stopped again. The result was given after that one lap and Hickman was awarded second for a fifth podium in six years.
Words by Phil Wain.