Dominating McGuinness burns rivals in start-to-finish triumph

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 November, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 November, 2001, 12:00am

Englishman John McGuinness had no idea how his brand new Honda would perform when he took it out on the 3.8-mile Guia circuit last week. But by the end of 15 laps yesterday, he knew just how good it was when he won the 35th Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix under a blazing sun.

McGuinness made it a one-man domination show as he beat flying Scotsman Roger Bennett - competing in the race for the 13th time - by 5.154 seconds. Third was 1999 Macau winner David Jefferies, who was 49.011 seconds behind the winner.

For 29-year-old McGuinness, who hails from Morcambe in Lancashire, it was his first Macau win in four attempts, and the feeling of finally winning was 'tremendous'.

He said he owed his success to his Honda Britain Paul Bird 960cc bike. Having smashed the track qualifying lap record on Friday in grabbing pole position, McGuinness' dominance continued with a start-to-finish victory on his favourite circuit.

'I am really quite surprised - quite shocked at how the bike performed. A lot of people had written us off and said it wasn't capable of winning anything, but it proved them wrong,' said McGuinness, a bricklayer by profession, who set a new lap race record of 2:29.173 on lap four.

'The bike performed absolutely perfectly all week and I didn't have any problems during the event. I would like to thank Honda UK for the machine. It was a real fast machine and real competitive and I am looking forward to coming back next year.'

McGuinness said winning in Macau was one of his best achievements, having won the Daytona 250 twice and the Scarborough Gold Cup once in past years. He said his bike had never been tested before on a street circuit and had been built for all the big TT races in Britain, including the North West 200. But those events were cancelled this year because of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

'Everything went to plan. I was looking at the lap times at practice and the only thing I could do was get a good start. I got to Lisboa first at the start and got the head down. I eased back a bit in the end,' said McGuinness, whose previous best finish in Macau was third in 1998.

'With a couple of laps to go, I had to keep the head down and I won,' said the Englishman, who opened up a 10-second lead after just five laps. McGuinness was confident before the start. Not only was he on a highly competitive bike, he was coming into the race in top physical condition after finishing fourth last year with a still-healing broken leg.

Bennett, meanwhile, suffered more heartbreak as he swept to second place again after having the best chance to finally snare the title. He had finished second in 1996 and he looked set to end his duck astride a Reve Red Bull Ducati 996cc bike.

But McGuinness gave little leeway and Bennett knew he was a chasing a dream when McGuinness quickly established a two-second lead after two laps.

'I did everything I could. I could see that I was between 1.5 to two seconds faster than last year. That's the fastest I have ever been before. But the class of the field had taken a big step forward. This is why I have spent so much time in the gym trying to keep fit,' said recently-turned 40-year-old Bennett.

'John was getting tired towards the end, and I closed the gap on him a little, but it wasn't enough. But this was far and away the best bike I have ridden. Finishing second is the best 40th birthday present for me.'

Yorkshireman Jefferies, racing a V&M Racing Yamaha 1,000cc, said he was lucky to have snatched third place after encountering so many problems in the lead-up to the race. His problems continued when he was shunted from behind by American Vincent Haskovec in a 1,000cc Attack Suzuki at the first corner, but Jefferies somehow managed to stay on board even though Haskovec couldn't.

'It has been a very difficult week for us. We got here on Thursday and did three laps of practice and the engine blew up. We swapped engines from Jason's [Griffiths] bike to mine and did the second qualifying and that blew up. I had a spare engine and without that I wouldn't have raced,' said 29-year-old Jefferies, who borrowed fellow competitor Ryan Farquhar's engine after getting special permission from the latter's sponsors.

'It was a difficult year and when we got here the problems carried on. It was a good result, considering the problems.'

German Markus Barth on a 1,000cc Suzuki was fourth home, his best-ever result at the event, with Austrian Thomas Hinterreiter (1,000cc Suzuki) taking fifth spot. McGuinness' teammate Gus Scott was sixth after the team's mechanics fitted a new engine in 90 minutes between the warm up and the start of the race.