Macau Grand Prix

‘If we can lead at Lisboa bend on the first lap ...’ – Glenn Irwin feeling good for Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix

Northern Irish star says he is ‘in the right frame of mind’ after last year’s debut appearance when his bike failed

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 November, 2017, 12:37pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 November, 2017, 9:03pm

Northern Ireland rider Glenn Irwin has smashed the Guia circuit record on the way to securing pole position for Saturday’s Suncity Group Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix.

The 27-year-old was up at the crack of dawn for final qualifying and as Macau rose from its slumber Irwin was already flying around the streets powered by the sheer force of his own will. He clocked a time of two minutes, 23.081 seconds, on his Tak Chun Racing by PBM/Penz13 Ducati, to break the mark of 2:23.616 set in the Grand Prix of 2010 by Stuart Easton.

Last year – on debut – Irwin’s chances were ruined by fuel problems in the big race after he’d flown in the practice and qualifying sessions, making a mockery of the commonly held belief that it takes at least three cracks at Macau before a rider settles into the groove.

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“Coming to Macau this year, there is only one thing on my mind – winning,” said Irwin.

“It was weird when I broke down in last year’s race because of how dangerous road racing is. You’re annoyed but it’s not the end of the world because you’re also going home in one piece. I’ve got a family and that means the most to me.

“But it made me realise what I could do in my second year and I’ve done everything I can do. I think we’ve got even more pace. If we can lead at Lisboa [bend] at the first lap, we’ll be all right.”

It’s been some year already for Irwin, with a first victory in the British Superbike series as well as a thrilling last-lap win at the North West 200 in Northern Ireland. Adding the Macau event – in its 51st edition – to that list of achievements would be the year’s crowning glory.

Irwin has bounced back from having his left arm smashed up in a crash in Scotland in June. There’s been plenty of boxing (which he likes) and yoga (not so much) and Irwin says the arm is now manageable – but has been left without much feeling.

On the evidence seen this week, it’s still working just fine.

“I’m in the right place. I’m in that right frame of mind,” said Irwin.

Irwin was beaming at he took to the post-qualifying press conference flanked by last year’s winner Peter Hickman and eight-time winner Michael Rutter, the SMT Racing/Bathams by MGM Macau pair who qualified second and third, respectively, on their BMWs.

“It’s an honour to be alongside these two legends,” Irwin said. “They’ve done a lot of amazing things in racing. Michael actually raced against my dad and is someone I grew up watching and supporting.

“To be in pole is a real good thing. Let’s hope the rain stays away and we can have a good race. It’s been a really good week so far. I’ll have a massage and a steak and I’ll be ready.”

Irwin is the first rider from Northern Ireland to claim pole in Macau since Phillip McCallen in 1996 and it would take a brave man to bet against him on Saturday.

Not that Hickman – gunning for a hat-trick of wins – or the evergreen Rutter were in a mood to concede defeat.

“I was telling Glenn yesterday that he was three years old when I did my first Macau GP,” said the 45-year-old Rutter. “He’ll be hard to beat but we can hope that these two will go out there and battle, and then we can roll them.”

Organisers will be casting a nervous eye on the weather charts over the next 24 hours, with storms forecast for Saturday.