Hickman takes third Macau Grand Prix win
Lincolnshire rider Peter Hickman recorded his third Macau GP win on Saturday after the race was red flagged for a two rider collision with three laps remaining.
Riding the Aspire-Ho by Bathams Racing Smiths BMW Hickman had been dominant throughout qualifying and turned his overnight provisional pole into the real thing with a series of convincing laps that left him a second clear of team-mate Michael Rutter.
Ahead of the race Hickman was quietly confident: “This is my first pole at Macau, which is really nice. The bike’s been working really, really well right from the first practice yesterday, although practice was hard work. I’m quite happy with the setting. I’m riding the same bike I rode last year and it’s making life a bit easier."
As the lights went out Michael Rutter, riding the MotoGP-derived Honda RC213V-S for the first time, got the advantage and was out in front of the pack before Hickman decided it was time for him to press on. The Louth rider took the lead on lap three of 12 and the pair soon began to pull clear of the pursuing riders.
Hickman had just over a second lead from Rutter with Martin Jessopp, Danny Webb and Gary Johnson following some five seconds behind. On lap nine Hickman was on a roll and pulling well clear when the race was red flagged for a crash involving Lincolnshire rider Phil Crowe and Ben Wylie. Because the race had gone over the required two thirds distance, a result was declared on positions at eight laps distance with Hickman declared the winner from Rutter and Jessopp.
At the finish Peter Hickman said: “Michael got a much better start than me which is usual as he is always good off the line. I was quite happy to just sit there and follow him to watch where he was strong and where he wasn't. I could hear the Ducati behind me so realised Martin was fairly close so, after the third lap, I decided it was time to go and got my head down, passed Michael and began to pull a bit of a gap."
"After half distance he began to gain ground on me and was only 0.7s behind so thought I had better get my head down again and pull the gap back out again. I looked at the TV screen at Lisboa and saw that I had pulled away again but unfortunately the red flag came out."
The Belfast Telegraph reported the accident, involving Ben Wylie and Phil Crowe, had led to Ben being admitted to hospital, where his condition wasn't thought to be serious, while Phil Crowe came through relatively unscathed.
The victory in Macau crowns a phenomenal year for Hickman that saw him take wins in every major international road race and set a new absolute lap record at the TT to become the fastest road racer in the World.
Peter's team mate and manager Michael Rutter felt he could have made Hickman work a little harder for the win: “It was always going to be difficult coming here with a brand new bike, particularly given the limited track time we had prior to Thursday, and I’ve been on a steep learning curve but the team have worked fantastic. I was pleased to be on the front row although I was a bit disappointed with my own performance as I lost a bit of concentration on my flying laps and felt that I could have been a lot closer to Peter.”
“When he came by, he pulled a huge gap on me in just one lap but I got my head down again to close in and I could see his rear tyre had a bit of wear in it which I hoped might play into my hands. He pulled away again but I really enjoyed the race and having come with the aim of getting two bikes on the podium, I’m delighted we’ve done exactly that and I can’t thank the team and all the sponsors enough.”
There were plenty of other TT riders in action at Macau, including John McGuinness whose plans for a return to racing at the Isle of Man in June 2018 had to be put on hold due to a hairline fracture on his leg following his long recovery from injury at the North West 200.
Briggs Equipment Kawasaki rider Gary Johnson took a strong fifth place finish, despite nursing a damaged vertebrae as a result of a spill at Brands Hatch in October. "The back injury put me on the back foot a bit so I was a bit rusty in first practice. As expected, Hicky was a bit ahead of everyone else but with a bit more time on the bike, I think we could have closed the gap to Michael although I’m happy with fifth. I’m looking forward now to working hard in the New Year to get myself back at the sharp end at the TT and NW200."
Tenth place was the best John could manage on his return to the Guia circuit after a two year absence but he was philosophical about the result: "I had a top ten finish on my radar before getting here and whilst I could be a bit disappointed with tenth, the lads who finished in front of me have been riding all year and are sharp, riding week in week out. The Ducati was fantastic, the team were ace and there was no pressure from anyone so it’s nice to go into winter with a race under my belt and I can look ahead now to 2019.”
Unlike John, Paul Jordan was experiencing the course for the first time this year and the armco-lined street circuit definitely left a big impression: “For my first time at Macau, I have to be pleased with the result and there’s no words to sum the circuit up other than it’s insane!"
Taking fourteenth overall Paul clearly has longer term ambitions for Macau:
“I didn’t get a bad start to the race but the first lap was a bit hairy and I got boxed in a bit which opened up the gap to the group in front of me. I ended up having a bit of a tussle with Michael Sweeney and a few other lads but I really enjoyed the race. The bike and the team worked really, really well and I’m really happy with the result so am looking forward to coming back next year.”
Team mate and fellow debutant Dom Herbertson struggled with a hand injury picked up at the Sunflower meeting but achieved a creditable 20th place: "I can’t thank the team enough this week. I had a massive highside at the Sunflower Trophy meeting last month so was struggling with a nasty hand injury which was making it hard to turn the bike but the circuit is great so, personally, I was over the moon with what I achieved."
Macau Grand Prix 2018