With two wins already under his belt, Peter Hickman heads into tomorrow’s Macau Grand Prix in pole position and favourite to take not only the race win but also complete his hat-trick after a blistering performance in final qualifying today.
Having taken victories already in 2015 and 2016, Thursday’s opening day had seen the Louth-based rider top the opening qualifying session with a time of 2’25.429s, ahead of team-mate Michael Rutter and while it was the latter who set the initial pace on Friday morning, Hickman moved ahead halfway through the session.
The Aspire-Ho by Bathams Racing rider put in a lap of 2m25.022s but near the end of the 45-minute session, the timing screens showed he was on a rapid lap with the fastest sector times all the way round the 3.8-mile circuit.
Indeed, as a he flashed across the line, his lap of 2m23.904s on his BMW S1000RR was not only four tenths of a second quicker than he’d ever gone before but also just 0.288s outside Stuart Easton’s outright lap record which was set back in 2010.
“As soon as we completed first practice, I was looking forward to the racing as the Aspire-Ho/Bathams Racing BMW was working well right from the off,” said Hickman. “I have my usual Smiths Racing crew here with me and they’ve been working hard, giving me a great set-up while the track is in really good condition, probably the best I’ve seen it since 2015.”
“The bike felt great on the first day but we made a few tweaks for final qualifying, nothing major but just something we felt would help even further and that’s how it panned out. Conditions were again good and the changes we made were in the right direction which allowed me to get down to a 2m25s flat so we came in, made some more changes and went back out again and put in a sub 2m24s lap.”
Rutter went quicker in the closing stages too but was still over a second adrift although with a 1-2 for the team, they’re more than hopeful of a repeat performance in Saturday’s 12-lap race.
“It’s great to be on pole as I’m not a qualifying rider really, more of a race day man, and both Michael and I came here hoping to put the team on the top step. I’m feeling really good and we’ve both been strong in the first two days so everything’s looking good for the team.”