BMW Motorrad Motorsport
Macau, China, 23/11/2016, BMW Road Race Challenge
The 50th running of the legendary Macau Grand Prix was a nerve-racking thriller. Playing a leading role: three BMW S 1000 RR racers. Peter Hickman, Michael Rutter and Martin Jessopp fought a breath-taking battle in the urban canyons of the Asian metropolis – and repeated the previous year’s performance to claim a sensational top-three lock-out for the RR. The BMW trio also provided one of the closest finishes in the history of the Macau Grand Prix. The three were separated by just 0.655 seconds at the finish line – and the rest of the field was 20 seconds behind.
A total of 13 riders competed on the BMW S 1000 RR in this anniversary edition of the famous road race. These included the three riders who had claimed a top-three lock-out for BMW in 2015: Hickman, Rutter and Jessopp. Hickman and Rutter, who has claimed a record number of wins in Macau, were team-mates at Bathams/SMT Racing, while Jessopp competed with his team from RidersMotorcycles.com BMW.
This year, it was already clear in free practice and in qualifying that the RR was the bike to beat once again on the challenging “Guia Circuit”. Rutter claimed the best times in free practice and in the first qualifying session, while Jessopp was second fastest. The RidersMotorcycles.com BMW Pilot rider improved in the second session: Jessopp secured pole position with a time of 2:24.659 minutes. Rutter qualified in second place and Hickman in seventh.
When the lights went green, the Guia Circuit became the scene of a breath-taking chase along the track. Rutter immediately shot past Jessopp to take the lead. Starting from seventh place, Hickman catapulted himself through the field to take up the chase. On lap seven, Jessopp passed Rutter in the sweeping Mandarin Bend to retake the lead, only for the experienced Rutter to fight back at the very next corner, the 90-degree Lisboa right turn. This corner was to play a role many times during the course of the race.
Jessopp was intent on claiming his first Macau win. On lap eight, he chose Lisboa to attempt an overtaking manoeuvre and this time he was able to keep Rutter behind him. He then tried to pull away from the field, but Rutter and Hickman were hot on his heels.
Lap ten of 12 witnessed a highlight in the three-way battle between the BMW riders, as spectators gasped in amazement. Rutter and Hickman passed Jessopp on the left and the right in the approach to Lisboa. Now Rutter was in the lead and Hickman in second place. Jessopp had fallen back to third position after the double overtake by his BMW brand team-mates – and, in the heat of the moment, Jessopp accidentally slipped into neutral as he entered Lisboa. He lost valuable time before resuming the chase.
Meanwhile, Hickman was waiting for an opportunity to pass the leader, Rutter. His chance came at Lisboa once again. Hickman took the lead and crossed the line just 0.533 seconds ahead of Rutter after 12 thrilling laps. His Bathams/SMT Racing team-mate finished in second place, barely 0.122 seconds quicker than Jessopp.
“That was one of the toughest races I have ever had,” said Hickman. “I had never even seen the bike I was on until Thursday morning, and I hadn’t ridden a BMW for a year. So it was a steep learning curve, but we did it. To get this team together and have two of us on the podium has been a great effort by all involved. I am just thrilled to bits to win here again.”
To make it even more special: Hickman is now a two-time Macau winner, although he has only competed in the legendary race on two occasions. On his debut in 2014, he took a tumble in qualifying and was unable to take part in the race itself. He claimed his first win in 2015 on the BMW S 1000 RR, and repeated the feat this time.
Rutter concluded: “It was a great race from the start and I gave my all until the finish. On the last lap, I was right behind Peter coming out of Mandarin. But the bike was spinning up a little bit too much and so, although I did consider make a move in Lisboa, I didn’t want to end up with both of us off the track.”
Jessopp was able to close up on Rutter, but he couldn’t find a way past. After the race, the third-placed rider explained what had happened in Lisboa: “I went for the gear and there was just nothing there. I tried to change down or change up, but there was nothing. So I coasted into the corner with no brakes, which was pretty scary. I started to pull over and as I slowed down it fired back into life. I gave it everything on the last lap, but I just wasn’t good enough. It’s tough, but there are no excuses. I think they’d have got past me anyway.”
Another three BMW riders finished in the top ten behind the successful trio. Stuart Easton, team-mate of Hickman and Rutter at Bathams/SMT Racing, finished in sixth place. Ian Hutchinson, who competed on the Tyco BMW S 1000 RR, finished in eighth, while Dan Cooper (Dan Cooper Racing/CMS) secured tenth position. Our Facebook channel (link: see below) has some breath-taking images of the chase through the streets of Macau