Pole star Hickman in a hurry for another Macau win
Peter Hickman stamped his authority on free practice and first qualifying for tomorrow morning's 53rd Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix, taking provisional pole position.
The popular English rider topped the standings by 1.738secs from Michael Rutter, his MGM Bathams team-mate for the Far East event.
Hickman, currently the fastest rider in the world after his 136.415mph lap of the Dundrod Circuit in August, is chasing his fourth win in five years at this highly regarded race and set a time of 2m 25.100secs on his seventh lap of eight, a speed of 94.875mph for the unforgiving 3.825mile Armco-lined circuit.
Hickman, on board the Smiths BMW, looked to be on for a faster time but encountered slower traffic and was unable to boost his speed, while record eight-times Macau GP winner Rutter on the Honda RC213V tried to close the gap with a 2m 26.838sec lap, but it was not enough to knock Hickman off top spot.
John McGuinness and David Johnson, riding the PBM Ducati V4 Panigales that finished 1-2 in the British Superbike Championship, claimed third and fourth in qualifying, with the 23-time TT winner a third of a second behind Rutter and a tenth ahead of the Australian.
Austrian Horst Saiger was fifth fastest, with Burrows Engineering/RK Racing Suzuki pilot Derek Sheils an excellent sixth, three-tenths ahead of Lee Johnston on his Ashcourt BMW.
Davey Todd, the 2019 International Road Race champion, on his BMW was a tenth of a second behind Johnson in eighth position, a notable improvement from 19th in the opening free practice session.
Sheils commented after qualifying: "I haven't raced since the Ulster Grand Prix, but I've been keeping active riding motocross bikes.
"I'm looking forward to the race on Saturday, because it's an event I always enjoy.
"We had no data for this bike for Macau, so it was good to get it dialled in early doors and be in sixth position - my target for the race is fifth or sixth."
Team boss John Burrows said: "It's our fifth year at Macau and Derek is riding the only Suzuki in the race, but we are confident in the package we have and I'm sure he'll give a good account of himself."
Skerries rider Michael Sweeney was 15th fastest, a third of a second ahead of Ian Hutchinson, who was riding a Milwaukee BMW by SMT, with Brian McCormack 17th, Paul Jordan 19th and Davy Morgan 26th.
After final qualifying today the 12-lap race is scheduled for 7.55am tomorrow morning and can be accessed on livestream.com/MacauGrandPrix.
Meanwhile, in a shock announcement yesterday, three-time MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo (32) has retired from the sport.
The Spanish racer has enjoyed a glittering career but bows out after what has been his worst season in GP racing.
After joining Honda for 2019 alongside Marc Marquez, Lorenzo has been plagued by injury and difficulties in adapting to the RC213V and hasn't scored a top-10 finish ahead of this weekend's finale at Valencia.
Lorenzo commented: "This will be my last race in MotoGP and at the end of the race on Sunday I will retire as a racer.
"There are four significant days in the life of a rider - your first race, your first win, your first world championship, which not everyone can manage to do, and finally the day you retire at, which I have arrived at," added Lorenzo.