After enduring through three years of surgeries, rehabilitation and setbacks with his badly broken left leg and not riding at all for the last 18 months, Ian Hutchinson got to stand tall Friday after taking pole position in dramatic fashion at the 47th edition of the Star River–Windsor Arch Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix, in Macau, China.
With 10 minutes to go in the 45-minute final qualifying session, Hutchinson was fifth in the order and sitting in the pits watching his Milwaukee Yamaha team thrash away on his Dunlop-sponsored YZF-R1 Superbike instead of lapping the 3.8-mile Guia Street Circuit.
“We made quite a big change from yesterday, front and rear, and I was really struggling,” said Hutchinson. “Toward the end of the session I felt the track was better than yesterday, so the problem had to be the changes. So I just took the risk to get it back how it was in time. It took about 15 minutes to get the shock and linkage [changed] out.”
Hutchinson got back out on course with about four minutes to go--just enough time for a warm-up lap and a single flyer. But that was all the 34-year-old Englishman needed, as he ripped off a 2:25.568 to leap from fifth to first in the order and claim pole position for Saturday’s 15-lap race.
“[The lap] felt quite slow, to be honest, because I only had one lap to do it in and I couldn’t afford to make a mistake,” Hutchinson told Roadracingworld.com. “We were sort of late getting out for that last lap, so I took it really smooth over the top. But sometimes you find time like that. I tried my best to be relaxed. Maybe there was a bit more left. Maybe if I tried I would have gone slower. But it was just important to get myself on track and get myself on the front row on the one lap, and that’s what we did.”
Another interesting element in Hutchinson’s pole-winning lap was that it came right in front of provisional pole-sitter and eight-time race winner Michael Rutter and his Metzeler-shod SMT Honda CBR1000RR.
“Ian pulled out of the pits and I seen him,” said 41-year-old Rutter. “I thought it would be good to get behind him and I’d try to do him over in the last bit before start/finish. And he pulled out about four seconds on me! (laughs) So that was a problem. I’m upset to be second, but you can’t always be on pole. I’ve had a few poles. Hopefully we can put a good race together tomorrow.”
Rutter turned his best time of the weekend, 2:25.625, while chasing Hutchinson, but ended up second-best in the qualifying order.
Qualifying third on his Dunlop-equipped Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR was 41-year-old John McGuinness with a 2:27.447.
“I’ve put my heart and soul into it. I’ve ridden around as hard as I can all weekend, every session,” said McGuinness, a former winner at the Macau GP. “The bike’s been good. The team’s been good. We’re all enjoying it. We’re on the front row. I couldn’t have done any more. I crossed the line and finished third. The front row is really important for this Macau race. I just have to say hats off to Hutchy [Hutchison] for not being on a motorcycle for a long, long time and to stick it on pole position at one of the toughest tracks in the world, for sure physically.”
Earning the fourth and final spot on the front row was Martin Jessopp, who didn’t go any faster Friday morning on his Metzeler-fitted Riders Motorcycles BMW S1000RR but stayed near the top based upon the 2:27.567 he did in provisional qualifying on Thursday afternoon.
“I was hoping for a little bit better, to be honest, from today,” Jessopp told reporters. “But looking at yesterday morning, if you told me I would be fourth I’d have had a laugh because we’ve really been struggling with this bike this year. To be up here with these guys I’m not going to complain, and it sets me up well for tomorrow’s race. It’s going to be a long race, so I’m just going to hang in there, chip away and see what I can do.”
Heading row two of the grid is Saiger-racing.com’s Horst Saiger, who jumped from eighth and 2:29.263 in provisional qualifying to fifth and 2:27.601 in final qualifying on his Kawasaki ZX-10R. Gary Johnson, riding his Quattro Plant Motorsports Honda CBR1000RR, improved his qualifying time to 2:28.142 (sixth) on his very first flying lap at the start of the 7:30 a.m. final qualifying session. James Storrar failed to go quicker on his DMR Racing BMW S1000RR in final qualifying and slipped to seventh with his lap of 2:28.293 from provisional qualifying. Likewise, American Jeremy Toye was unable to improve on the 2:28.775 he did on his Penz13.com BMW Racing Team S1000RR in provisional qualifying and slipped from sixth to eighth on the grid.
“It was rough,” Toye told Roadracingworld.com. “You don’t get a lot of time here and this place is different than every other track, so having a good baseline [setup] is key. The first two sessions we made advances with every time we made a change. This session, not so much.”
Toye’s countryman Mark Miller was able to go significantly quicker on his Splitlath Redmond Racing EBR 1190RS in final qualifying, lowering his time from 2:35.707 to 2:34.129. But that performance did not change Miller’s grid position, 20th.
“We just did a few tweaks on the bike,” Miller answered when asked how he improved his pace. “We changed the gearing and the wheelbase. Plus I’ve just got more time on the bike. It wants to be ridden differently. I realized the motor needs different lines to do the lap time. With more time and more learning of the bike I think I can go quicker, but it won’t be in qualifying. I would’ve liked to have done better.”
Miller’s teammate Brandon Cretu was forced to retire early when his EBR 1190RS suffered a mechanical problem on track.
“Something let loose on the upshift as I was coming onto the straightaway before pit in,” Cretu told Roadracingworld.com. “I heard a big pop and pulled in the clutch and shut the bike off. Luckily, I was able to coast into pit lane.”
Cretu had lowered his lap time from 2:41.978 to 2:39.332 before the mechanical problem, and that effort got him inside of the qualifying cut-off--2:40.124, 110% of the pole position time.
The 15-lap Star River—Windsor Arch Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix is scheduled to take place at 3:30 p.m. Macau time on Saturday, November 15.
Star River – Windsor Arch Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix 47th Edition
Guia Street Circuit
November 15, 2013
Combined Qualifying Results:
1. Ian Hutchinson, UK (Yam YZF-R1), Dunlop, 2:25.568
2. Michael Rutter, UK (Hon CBR1000RR), Metzeler, 2:25.625
3. John McGuinness, UK (Hon CBR1000RR), Dunlop, 2:27.447
4. Martin Jessopp, UK (BMW S1000RR), Metzeler, 2:27.567
5. Horst Saiger, Austria (Kaw ZX-10R), Metzeler, 2:27.601
6. Gary Johnson, UK (Hon CBR600RR), Metzeler, 2:28.142
7. James Storrar, UK (BMW S1000RR), Pirelli, 2:28.293
8. Jeremy Toye, USA (BMW S1000RR), Pirelli, 2:28.775
9. Didier Grams, Germany (BMW S1000RR), Pirelli, 2:28.798
10. Dan Kneen, UK (Suz GSX-R1000), Dunlop, 2:29.369
11. Lee Johnston, UK (Hon CBR1000RR), Dunlop, 2:30.157
12. Stephen Thompson, UK (Suz GSX-R1000), Dunlop, 2:30.160
13. David Johnson, Austria (Kaw ZX-10R), Pirelli, 2:30.652
14. Marc Fissette, Belgium (Suz GSX-R1000), Pirelli, 2:30.974
15. Dean Harrison, UK (Kaw ZX-10R), Metzeler, 2:31.080
16. Dan Cooper, UK (BMW S1000RR), Pirelli, 2:31.270
17. Herve Gantner, Switzerland (BMW S1000RR), Dunlop, 2:32.297
18. Roman Stamm, Switzerland (Kaw ZX-10R), Pirelli, 2:33.275
19. Jamie Hamilton, UK (Hon CBR1000RR), Dunlop, 2:33.374
20. Mark Miller, USA (EBR 1190RS), Dunlop, 2:34.129
21. Davy Morgan, UK (Suz GSX-R1000), Dunlop, 2:34.139
22. Steve Heneghan, Ireland (Kaw ZX-10R), Metzeler, 2:34.139
23. Andre Pires, Portugal (Suz GSX-R1000), Dunlop, 2:34.419
24. Paul Shoesmith, UK (BMW S1000RR), Dunlop, 2:36.004
25. Ian Lougher, UK (Hon CBR1000RR), Dunlop, 2:36.615
26. Graham English, UK (BMW S1000RR), Pirelli, 2:37.080
27. Sandor Bitter, Hungary (Kaw ZX-10R), Metzeler, 2:37.092
28. Allann-Jon Venter, South Africa (Kaw ZX-10R), Metzeler, 2:37.321
29. Brian McCormack, Ireland (Hon CBR1000RR), Dunlop, 2:38.959
30. Ben Wylie, UK (BMW S1000RR), Dunlop, 2:39.036
31. Nuno Caetano, Portugal (Kaw ZX-10R), Metzeler, 2:39.241
32. Brandon Cretu, USA (EBR 1190RS), Dunlop, 2:39.332
Qualifying Maximum 110% of Fast Time: 2:40.124