BMW Motorrad Motorsport
Macau, China, 25/11/2015, BMW Road Race Challenge
BMW Motorrad brings the curtain down on the 2015 season with a historic success: the 49th Macau Grand Prix not only yielded the first BMW victory at this iconic street race, but Peter Hickman, Martin Jessopp and Michael Rutter claimed a sensational one-two-three for the Bavarian manufacturer.
Each year, the Macau Grand Prix in the former Portuguese colony of Macau, now a Chinese special administrative region, is one of the highlights of the international racing calendar. The 6.115-kilometre Guia Circuit, which winds through the narrow streets of Macau, is regarded as one of the trickiest street circuits in the world – just one of the things that adds to the appeal and reputation of the Macau Grand Prix.
This year’s field of 30 included ten BMW privateers, supported by the experts from HP RaceSupport. The BMW S 1000 RR was the dominant bike on the fast, but extremely narrow Guia Circuit. No fewer than six BMW riders ended the Macau Grand Prix in the top ten, of which four finished in the top five.
The BMW riders had already established themselves among the favourites during the practice sessions and qualifying. Martin Jessopp set the pace on his BMW S 1000 RR, run by the Riders Motorcycles BMW team: he clocked the fastest times in practice and qualifying. That earned Jessopp his first pole position in Macau. Fellow BMW rider Peter Hickman (Briggs Equipment BMW) and Michael Rutter (Penz13.com BMW Motorrad Motorsport by MGM China) qualified second and third to ensure the grid featured an all-BMW front row.
The race, which is traditionally held on Saturday, developed into a real thriller. Pole-sitter Jessopp led the field for the first half of the race. He had opted for the softer tyre compound, and benefitted from this decision in the opening laps. However, as the race passed the halfway point, his tyres then began to degrade more dramatically than the harder compound on his rivals’ bikes.
That left the way free for Hickman. After 12 laps of racing, he crossed the finish line first, 6.276 seconds ahead of Jessopp. He also set the fastest lap of the race on his RR, clocking a time of 2:24.940 minutes. Hickman was making only his second appearance in Macau. He made his debut last year, but crashed in qualifying and was unable to contest the race. This year, however, he claimed his maiden Macau victory – and the first for BMW.
“It feels absolutely fantastic! This is only my second time in Macau. I’ve not been doing the road racing scene for very long, but my British Superbike Championships have been pretty strong the last couple of years. It’s fantastic to be able to transfer between the two,” said Hickman.
He continued: “We all knew from the qualifying and practices that Martin was really strong, and the pace that he had compared to everyone else seemed too much, to be quite honest. I was on the Dunlop tyres and Martin and Michael were on different ones, so we knew that we were going to be strong for the second half of the race, and I figured that Martin was going to pull away in the first five or six laps and then hopefully we’d come back to him. Martin put in such a fast lap. I thought, I just need to be clean, don’t make any mistakes and just be as fast as I can. As soon as I had a chance, I was close enough at Lisboa and I passed him straight away. Fortunately the plan worked.”
Jessopp and Rutter came home second and third to complete the historic success and an all-BMW podium. However, Jessopp would naturally have preferred to have climbed onto the top step: “That was the best I could do on that tyre. I had some big moments, so I had to bring her home for second. It is a shame, as my pace was a lot better. Congratulations to Peter!”
Rutter was involved in a number of thrilling battles for position with the other stars of the international road racing scene in the narrow streets. He ultimately held the upper hand, coming home third to join Hickman and Jessopp on the podium, despite suffering with mechanical issues. “They were in another race anyway. I was fighting for a podium position. In the last couple of laps I put in a big push. My fastest lap was the last lap,” he said.
Rutter’s team-mate at Penz13.com BMW Motorrad Motorsport by MGM China, Gary Johnson, rounded off the strong result for BMW: he finished fifth on his RR. Together with Rutter’s third place, that proved enough for the Penz13.com team and its principal Rico Penzkofer to win the trophy for the best team. On the podium – honoured with a laurel wreath and big trophy – Penzkofer pointed down to his team: “Yes, you down there in front of the podium made this possible. Thank you!”
In addition to the four BMW riders in the first five places, another two RR riders ended the iconic race in the top ten: Lee Johnston (East Coast Construction) was ninth, followed in tenth place by David Johnson (Ice Valley by Motorsave Trade).
The Macau Grand Prix counted towards the BMW Combined Road Race Challenge (BMW RRC) and the BMW Motorrad Race Trophy.