Peter Hickman underlined his credentials as the fastest road racer in the world by being easily the fastest road racer in Macau once again as the first practice session for the 53rd edition of the race ended with the MGM by Bathams BMW more than a second clear of his nearest rival at 2’28.007.
For a long while the gap had been over two seconds but as Hickman sat in pitlane watching the timing screens, the rest of the field closed up behind him but never quite threatened to reach him.
This was a brilliant start to the Suncity Group 66th Macau Grand Prix weekend, an hour of track action with no problems bar the occasional overshoot as various riders explored the true meaning of late braking, coming down from more than 270kph to the 90-degree right turn at Lisboa.
But as ever the story of a fast lap around the 6.2km Guia Circuit is written in the hills overlooking the city, and eight-time winner Michael Rutter rode some perfect sectors to put the MGM by Bathams Honda RC213V within a second of Hickman’s time.
David Johnson was third quickest on his first outing on the Tak Chun Group by PBM Ducati, Paul Bird’s team rounding off a dominant season in the British Superbike Championship with return to Macao that looks likely to have podium possibilities.
His team-mate is John McGuinness, the hugely successful and experienced road racer made good use of the machine on which Scott Redding won this year’s BSB crown to go fourth quickest by the end of the hour-long session at 2’29.817.
Horst Saiger was next up on the Saiger Racing Yamaha, but a couple of seconds off the pace, and heading up a second group of closely-matched riders. Just behind him on the timesheets was Lee Johnston and his Ashcourt Racing BMW team-mate Gary Johnson. Didier Grams (G&G Motorsport BMW) was a 8th and then strong performances from Rob Hodson (JGH Racing BMW) and Erno Kostamo (MGM by Penz 13) rounded out the top ten.
The free practice session is only a form guide, and the first qualifying session will establish a provisional grid, and although Hickman looks like continuing the dominant form he showed here last year and throughout a remarkably successful season of road and circuit racing, the eventual makeup of the top ten on the grid is a completely open book.