PBM Ducati’s Glenn Irwin has stormed to provisional pole in today’s Macau GP qualifying with a 1.4s lead over wily veteran Michael Rutter with reigning champion Peter Hickman in third place.
Irwin set a 2’24.310 - just a second off Stuart Easton’s long-standing lap record - with his final lap to take top spot to beat Rutter’s best by 1.467s. The SMT Bathams rider put in his best lap of 2’25.777 early in the session but couldn’t find any space in the latter stages to increase the pace.
Hickman, who isn’t that concerned with pole but wants a front-row start, is on the sister SMT S1000RR bike and a further 0.485s further back. Padgetts Honda man Conor Cummins bagged fourth place with his 2’27.460 while multiple Macau podium man Martin Jessopp put his Riders BMW in fifth with a 2’27.631.
Rutter and Irwin began this afternoon’s qualifying session as they did free practice, leaving pitlane and playing cat and mouse as to who should lead but Rutter soon got bored with that and pulled over to let the Irishman, and chasing Jessopp, through.
Irwin set the first meaningful time of the session, a 2’29.060 with Derek Sheils occupying second, Didier Grams third and Gary Johnson in fourth.
Hickman was into his stride early, putting in a 2’27.730 for top spot after ten minutes, towing Cummins around for third place while Irwin dropped his time for second with a 2’28.024.
It was Hickman who upped the game on the half-hour with a 2’26.999 but four minutes later, Rutter took up the running with the first sub 2’26s lap of the meeting, a 2’25.777 which proved to be his best of the session and enough for second. Irwin saw that marker and stuck in a 2’25.639 as his first of three laps in the 2’25s bracket. He then followed it with his provisional pole lap.
Cummins’ 2’27.460 was enough for his spot while Jessopp in fourth is a little way of the pace, some 3.321 which is uncharacteristic for the West Country rider. Sheils claimed sixth with 2’27.958 with Horst Saiger in seventh and David Johnson eighth, 4.5s off the pace.
Gary Johnson, on the Briggs Kawasaki, claimed ninth, just in front of Danny Webb. Grams, Lee Johnston, Ivan Lintin Sam West and Dan Cooper completed the top 15. It was a poor session for Dan Kneen - fifth this morning on a 2’29.544 - who could only muster a 2’31.200 for 16th place.
Dean Harrison is also a long way from the sharp end, setting a 2’32.621 for 21st place.