McGuinness hard on Rutter's wheel

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 November, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 November, 2003, 12:00am

'Beauty lies in the eyes of the beerholder', stated the T-shirt. John McGuinness, who has condensed his name on the back of his racing overalls to a pithy 'Mc' followed by a picture of a pint of Guinness, certainly proved the wisdom of that one-liner yesterday.

The former Lancashire bricklayer turned racing daredevil left it until the dying seconds of the final qualifying session to come from nowhere and clinch second spot on the starting grid for today's 37th Motorcycle Grand Prix with a brave, if not beautiful, display.

McGuinness, a winner here in 2001, suffered mechanical problems after just five laps in the first qualifying session yesterday. He somehow managed to get his 998 Zong Shen Racing Ducati back to the pit and the team worked furiously to get it ready for the second session in an hour.

'The bike stopped and I didn't know what happened. The team did well to work on it, but I only had eight minutes left in the last session by the time the bike was ready. I did one warmup lap before I decided to have a go. I was happy to salvage a second spot on the grid at the end,' said the relieved McGuinness.

In first place is defending champion and pre-race favourite Michael Rutter. The 30-year-old Englishman, chasing his fourth title in Macau, dominated both qualifying sessions on his 988 Renegade Racing Ducati and clinched pole with a time of two minutes, 27.833 seconds, half a second better than his own qualifying lap record set last year. Rutter has led all the way in qualifying over the past two days. Speedy repairs to a leaky radiator holed in the first session, enabled Rutter to make his record-breaking run. The three-time winner (1998, 2000, 2002) is now widely expected to add another notch to his belt today, and join the legendary Ron Haslam as the only riders to have won the title four or more times. 'We have got a good chance of winning but I will have to watch out for John McGuinness.

'He is on a factory bike and I'm sure he will push me all the way,' said Rutter.

Hong Kong's Matthew Marsh grabbed pole position for the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia supporting race. The 35-year old Noble Group driver set his time early in the session, leaving other competitors to play catch up.

Championship leader Charles Kwan, also of Hong Kong, was second to Marsh.