Peter Hickman made it four Macau GP victories on a warm Macau morning via an assured performance that saw Davey Todd, who ran Hickman a close race in the early stages of the restarted competition, finish second by more than 27 seconds.
Todd was dealt a crushing blow at the very start, when his bike had to be wheeled off the grid after the formation lap, at the time denied the chance to take the race to Hickman, who had pipped him to pole the previous day.
But an incident at Dona Maria corner on the first lap saw Dutch rider Nadieh Schoots, racing with number 49 in tribute to the late Raul Torras Martinez, and Irishman Brian McCormack, crash out of the race. Both riders were reported to be conscious and with “no big problems” by the Cantonese announcer soon after.
With the race red-flagged, Todd was given a second chance, as race control announced a full restart, allowing the number 7 rider to take up his second grid position. This was less welcome news for Michael Rutter, who had made a terrific start to leap into second and challenge Hickman side by side into Lisboa on that opening lap.
Last year’s winner, Erno Kostamo, started in third but lost out to record nine-time victor Michael Rutter, who jumped from fifth to third by the time the pack reached the fast Mandarin corner that leads to the famous Lisboa Corner approach.
“I’m very happy with the way things have gone,” the Finn had said after the previous day’s second qualifying session, speaking to local media. “I’ve lapped quicker on the ZERO UP Racing Team by Penz 13 BMW than I did last year when I won the race.
My only dilemma is what tyre I decide to use tomorrow. Do I go soft, which may be a big risk, or do I go hard which will provide more stability? Whatever happens I’m looking forward to crossing swords with Peter and Davey again.”
Kostamo opted for hards but may have regretted the choice, as he was left behind by the leaders in the early laps.
Michael Rutter, hoping to extend his record number of wins with a tenth victory around the GUia Circuit, made a promising start to the race restart, moving up to third by Mandarin with another exceptional leap off the line, but was forced to retire after just a handful of laps, pulling into the pits on lap 2, then emerging for a hopeful foray on lap 3, but retiring soon after.
The leading duo (Hickman/Todd) quickly pulled out a gap over Kostamo in third, with Todd all over Hickman to begin with. Crossing the line to begin lap 4, the gap was just 0.2 seconds.
A mechanical issue for Kostamo saw him retire on lap 4, leaving the German rider Datzer – resplendent in lederhosen-look leather to complement the Oktoberfest themed livery of his bike – to challenge Hickman’s remaining FHO Racing teammate in the race, Josh Brookes, for third, closing to within tenths of a second by lap 5 and passing him later during the same lap.
As Datzer pulled away from Brookes, Rob Hodson was making progress behind. The highest non-BMW rider in qualifying, Hodson had lined up 9th on his Honda and was up to 5th by lap 7, closing fast on the Australian Brookes.
It was around this point of the race that Hickman’s dominance became clear as he began to ease away into a commanding lead. As he crossed the line to begin lap 8, Todd was barely out of the final turn at the R Bend, and with four laps to go that lead had become some 16 seconds, to the awe of the spectators.
Datzer, Brookes and Hodson were now in a three-way fight for the final podium position, the trio close together in the faster first section of the Guia Circuit on lap 9. Datzer, however, was able to pull away through the winding, narrow mountain section and even begin to eat into the gap to Todd in second place, lapping some 3 seconds quicker than the Englishman (per the trackside announcer).
With three laps left Datzer was under 10 seconds from Todd, closing fast but also running out of race distance to challenge for that second spot. His pace slowed in the following lap, and he looked to be banking a safe podium rather than risk the kind of crash that had earlier seen Schoots and McCormack ferried to Sao Januario hospital for checks.
Hickman closed out the race with a masterful display and unmatchable pace, catching and lapping tailenders Holan and Lupberger on the final lap. Czech rider Holan saw one final drama as he lost control on the final corner of the last lap, hitting the barriers, even as Hickman celebrated with a burnout in front of the cheering fans in the Lisboa Corner grandstand, having secured his fourth Macau victory by an incredible 28.9 seconds from Todd in second.
Datzer took third, while Brookes held off Hodson to take fourth, adding to the positive side of a mixed weekend for FHO Racing in their home race – first and fourth places, but DNFs for Rutter and McCormack, whom FHO also backs.
Lukas Maurer took sixth, while Paul Jordan and Sam West, after some close competition, finished 7th and 8th respectively over the line. Dominic Herbertson and Joey Thompson rounded out the top 10.
However, time penalties for West and Thompson, for lining up incorrectly at the start, promoted Herbertson to 8th and Manx rider Michael Evans to 9th.
Frenchman Timothee Monot came in 12th, Paul ‘Potchy’ Williams in 13th and Mark Goodings – the last finisher not to be lapped by HIckman – 14th.
Olivier Lupberger was the last to cross the line, in 15th place.
Photo via FHO Racing website
Words by Tom McGrenery