Peter Hickman makes it a Golden Jubilee to remember as he roars to Macau glory again
The 29-year-old Englishman successfully retains his motorcycle grand prix title on the Guia circuit after a daring move past the ‘king of Macau’ Michael Rutter with two laps to go to take the chequered flag
A Golden Jubilee calls for something extra special and Peter Hickman duly delivered on Saturday as he claimed the 50th Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix – and his second straight victory in the event.
The Englishman sat poised behind the leaders Michael Rutter, Martin Jessopp and Glenn Irwin for the majority of the race, biding his time on his Bathams/SMT Racing BMW and waiting for his moment to pounce.
Fate was kind, first, with the rookie Irwin’s losing speed on his Be Wiser Ducati and then Jessopp briefly dropping out of gear with three laps to go.
All Hickman had to do then was find a way past teammate Rutter – no mean feat considering the Englishman is an eight-time winner of the event and is widely known around these part as its “King.”
The move came with two laps to finish and saw the 29-year-old Hickman flash up on his rival’s inside on the run down to the Lisboa bend. The gasp, from the grandstand, was audible.
“I kind of crapped myself a little bit,” Hickman said afterwards, his face still flushed red with whatever toll the effort actually took on his body.
“What a hard race that was. I knew I would be strong at the end. I got away fast and was hoping they’d start to come backward about halfway through the race. They didn’t and I really had to dig in. It’s one of the hardest races I’ve ever done.”
What made the effort more incredible – apart, of course, from the fact that he’d started seventh on the grid – was the fact Hickman has only taken up a spot in the race twice. Three years ago he never made it out of practice, crashing on pretty much the first corner he tackled. Then the form reads: win, win.
“Full credit to the team,” said Hickman. “I’d never even seen the bike until Thursday so it was a steep learning curve. To get this team together and to have two of us on the podium has been a great effort by all involved and I am just thrilled to bit to win here again.”
For long periods of the race Rutter was like a dog fighting for a bone. Every time he lost the lead, his heels dug in and he wrestled the damn thing right back again.
But that one brilliant Hickman move proved his undoing and the king graciously dipped his crown at race end.
“I got a good start, got the lead and thought ‘perfect’,” said the 44-year-old Rutter. “But I could hear them behind me and I thought ‘This is going to be one hell of a race’. Martin went flying past and I thought I can’t let him go. Then Peter went past and I thought ‘I’ve got to do him.’
“But he rode the perfect race it looked he was on rails from behind. Every single thing has to go right here so fair play to Pete.”
Spare a moment for Jessopp, three times second here, starting from pole and seemingly with the race at his mercy until that slip out of gear. But the Riders Motorcycles BMW ace took the bitter slug of medicine manfully.
“I was going into Lisboa, I went for the gear and there was just nothing there,” said Jessopp. “I was trying to down, up – nothing. So I just coasted into the corner with no brakes, which was pretty scary. I started to pull over and as I slowed down it fired back into life.
“I put everything I had into the last lap and half but I just wasn’t good enough. It was tough but it’s no excuse. I think they would have got past me anyway.”
It was a thrilling end to a event that has grown in stature over its five decades and despite the loss, Jessopp seemed to sum up to mood that lingered trackside afterwards.
“It’s a crazy race and I’m gutted I didn’t win but I’ll be back here next year,” he said.