Ian Hutchinson took a surprise pole position at the 47th Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix, beating favourite Michael Rutter to the top spot by just 0.057 seconds.
Rutter held provisional pole by over a second overnight, having dominated the opening practice sessions, but a last-gasp effort from Hutchinson saw the two duel for the final three laps, providing action that was more like a race than a qualifying session.
It seemed like the times set in Thursday’s warm session weren’t going to be beaten in a cooler session on Friday morning but, with just five minutes left of the session, Rutter and Hutchinson, who were together on track, began getting faster and faster. Hutchinson managed to keep Rutter back in the five minute shootout, taking the fastest lap and managing to take pole position in the process.
“We made quite a big change from yesterday front and rear, as we’ve been really struggling, really trying hard,” said Hutchinson, who marked his long-awaited return to racing after a run of injuries with a magnificent qualifying display. “Towards the end of the session I thought the track felt better than yesterday, so I knew it had to be the changes we’d made. So I took the risk that we’d get it back how it was in time. It took about 15 minutes so I had about four minutes, a lap, to go. I never expected to get pole but was hoping for a front row start. I’m pleased it’s come out like this and nice to get praise from all the riders.”
“It was good just get behind him and try and do him on the last bit at the start/finish, but he pulled about four seconds on me,” added Rutter. “Fair play to him though, he’s been through a lot. I’ve had a few poles, so I hope we can put a good race together tomorrow.”
John McGuinness rounded out the top three, qualifying 1.8 seconds behind Rutter and Hutchinson, while the highest placed newcomer was 24-year-old Lee Johnston, qualifying 11th on the grid for the 15 lap race.