PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 November, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 November, 2002, 12:00am

Isle of Man lap record holder David Jefferies is hoping for a change in fortunes after his bike suffered serious engine problems in yesterday's practice for tomorrow's 36th Motorcycle Grand Prix.

The 30-year-old, who won in Macau in 1999, failed to post any practice times after his TAS Suzuki 1000cc bike sputtered to a halt on the opening lap of yesterday's practice. But Jefferies' TAS Suzuki GB team is confident of fixing the problem before today's crucial two-timed qualifying sessions. 'I think my team can rebuild the engine in time. It's a bit of shame not to have put up any practice times, but we still have another day of qualifying,' said Jefferies, who won three races at this year's Isle of Man.

Defending Macau GP champion John McGuinness had to play second fiddle to Michael Rutter, winner of the race in 1998 and 2000, after the latter stole the show in practice, clocking two minutes, 33.126 seconds for his best lap. Rutter was 0.7 seconds faster than McGuinness, riding his Ducati Manchester machine, at the end of the hour-long session.

British competitors filled the top five places with endurance world champion Brian Morrison of Scotland third fastest on his Suzuki over a second slower than McGuinness. Germany's Markus Barth, who was fourth in last year's race, was sixth fastest on a Kawasaki behind Englishman Gus Scott on a Suzuki (fourth) and Briton Iain Duffus on the V&M Racing Yamaha (fifth).

Meanwhile, three-time ACMC Trophy champion Cheung Wai-on and Japanese rider Nakaki Ryosuke dominated yesterday's ACMC Trophy practice session. Hong Kong rider Cheung was just 0.592 seconds slower than Ryosuke, last year's runner-up, as the pair showed their rivals a clean pair of heels in an incident-free session.

Cheung finished fourth last year and is now looking for a podium finish. Despite recovering from an ankle injury suffered two weeks ago while racing in Zhuhai, Cheung believes he can reclaim the title he last won in 2000. 'The injury is a bit of a bother, but it has began to loosen up and hopefully it won't be a hindrance on race day,' he said.

Ryosuke feels Cheung will be a major threat on race day tomorrow. 'Cheung is the driver who will challenge me the most. He is young and capable and has a bright future. I will have to rely on my vast experience to beat him,' said the Japanese rider. Macau rider Leong Lok Choi was third fastest, but was 3.044 seconds behind Nakaki as the two top riders looked a class apart.