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Rutter gunning for ninth Macau GP win in anniversary year

It’s the Macau Grand Prix’s 50th anniversary this year and one man who knows more about the 3.8-mile Guia circuit than anyone else is Michael Rutter. The Bridgnorth rider has won the race a record eight times with 16 podiums in total, another record, and is gunning for a ninth this month on the Bathams/SMT Racing BMW.

The Macau Grand Prix celebrates its 50th year in 2016 – what does this milestone mean to the rider who has won there more times than anyone else?
It’s a massive milestone without doubt. Some of the events in the UK have been going longer but for Macau to be where it is in the world and still be going strong is a major achievement. It’s the only event of its kind on that side of the world so it’s very unique and testament to the organisers over the years that it hasn’t just made it to its 50th year but gone from strength to strength.

Having made your debut in 1994, this will be your 22nd appearance at the Macau Grand Prix, how has it changed over that period?
Over the years, I think the motorbike GP has become more prominent and it’s not simply a support race that it once was. The organisers and Macau people in general have noticed and realised just how popular the bikes are and moving us to a timeslot later in the day has been a huge benefit.

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When I first came, we had two legs and we were essentially racing down the seafront but now you’re racing for about a mile surrounded by skyscrapers. The standard of the entry has improved over the years and there have been lots of other changes. The one thing that has barely changed though is the course. With the exception of some of the corners being altered to make them slower, it’s still the same course as what it was in 1994 when I made my debut.

What’s the key to being successful at Macau?
It’s a good end of season event for us so to win puts you in a good place going into the winter especially as it’s got more and more coverage in the media these last ten years. To be successful, it’s all about being neat, tidy and smooth. You have to be accurate and also a bit conservative – you can’t be hanging off loads and scratching round all the corners. Each corner leads into the next and if you mess one up, you’ll still be paying for it half a lap later.

What’s the most difficult part of the circuit? And the most enjoyable?
For me personally, the most difficult corner is Mandarin. It’s 160mph+ when you tip in and you have to get it right to carry your speed along the following straight. On the approach, you can’t really see the corner either – all you can see is Armco so experience is key. The best bit? Coming out of the last corner on the last lap and seeing the chequered flag!

If you had to choose one race, which is particularly special for you, which one would it be and why?
Winning my eighth race as it’s something I didn’t think would happen. I hadn’t won for a few years so didn’t expect to in 2012 but conditions were right for me and everything came together. Due to various delays, the race got pushed back later and later in the day and when we were racing the street lights actually came on. With my experience, I knew where I was going and it was such a great feeling winning again after quite a long time without a victory.

Are you going for your ninth win this year?
Definitely. I’m not coming to make up the numbers but I’m also realistic as there at least 4 riders who are very strong and committed, none more so than my two team-mates Peter Hickman and Stuart Easton. Peter is riding fantastically well and has had a great season whilst he is, of course, the reigning Macau Champion. Stuart’s had four wins previously so he’ll be tough to beat as will Ian Hutchinson. He’s had a great season on both the roads and short circuits whilst Gary Johnson will also be tough to beat. I rode the Penz13.Com BMW in Germany and it’s a great package.

Last year was dominated by BMW and this year there will be you, Easton, Hutchinson and Gary Johnson all on BMW’s – is it another year for BMW to shine?
I think so. The BMW is a great bike and you only have to look at the results worldwide. It’s dominated at the likes of the TT and North West 200 so is well suited and proven on the roads. I’d say the BMW has got the edge over the likes of Kawasaki and Honda but one surprise person this year could be Glenn Irwin on the Ducati. He’s riding really well and has had a good season in BSB as well as previously proving himself at the NW200 and Ulster GP. He’s making his debut so it will be a huge ask to win but you never know, stranger things have happened!

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