This year’s Macau Grand Prix will be John McGuinness’ 20th visit to the event, his debut in 1998 seeing him finish third on the 500cc V-Twin Vimto Honda.
While he’s stood on the podium many times since – including winning in 2001 – he admits he’s going into the unknown this time around as he has his first Superbike race outing for exactly two years.
Seventh place in 2016 was the last time the Morecambe Missile competed in a Superbike race with his crash at the North West 200 the following year ruling him out of action until this year’s Senior Classic TT, and while he’s competed in a few events since, he heads to Macau both excited and nervous.
“I’m a bit nervous to be honest as I haven’t ridden at Macau since 2016 and I’ve done very little racing since as I’ve fought my way back from injury. This will be my 20th visit to Macau and whilst I’m with a good team and know the circuit like the back of my hand, I don’t have any real expectations when it comes to race results. I just want to go and enjoy it and get a full race distance under my belt in order to build up my preparations for 2019.”
McGuinness will ride for Paul Bird’s Be Wiser Ducati team alongside Martin Jessopp this time around and whilst he’s no stranger to riding Ducatis, having ridden at Macau in the early 2000s on Bird’s Monstermob Ducatis, it’s been a baptism of fire this year with very little track time ahead of this week.
“We did a track day at Donington last month which was my first time on the bike and my first time at Donington for about 6-7 years so I’m in new territory at Macau this year with the Ducati. I was mega rusty at the test and we only got about 20 minutes of track time when I could have done with about 2 hours but the bike has great pedigree and is good enough without doubt.
“Our preparation has been limited but I spoke with Birdy when we did the deal and the good thing is that there’s no pressure on me. Neither of us is expecting to win and he just said to enjoy the meeting and bring the bike home safely. A lot of stuff changes at Macau year on year but one thing that doesn’t is the circuit so whatever result we get is what we get.”
Aside from the Classic TT, McGuinness’s only other appearances this year have been at the Goodwood Revival and Stars at Darley but he’s keen to get back on track at Macau and take full advantage of all the track time as he looks to make his full racing comeback next year.
“Riding Classic bikes is fun but although you’re still riding them hard, they’re like night and day compared to a 200bhp Superbike where everything changes. There are a lot of reasons for doing Macau but whilst I’m a bit apprehensive, I need to ride this week ahead of next year. The winter break can be long and I’ll feel a lot better having raced at Macau rather than waiting all the way until next March to be on a bike again.
“The bike’s good, the team’s good and I’ve ridden for Birdy’s team loads of times before so I’m looking forward to it and once we’ve got the first practice session under our belts, I’m sure everything will settle down and we can get into a good rhythm.”