Gary Johnson and the Briggs Equipment Kawasaki ZX-10R will line up on the fourth row of the grid for Saturday’s 51st Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix after the Lincolnshire rider qualified in tenth place.
Rain earlier in the week gave way to warm, dry weather on Thursday and it was an early start to proceedings for Gary and the team with the opening one-hour practice session getting underway at 7.30am. Making full use of the track time, Gary eased his way back into the challenging 3.8-mile Guia circuit after a year away and with 16 laps completed during the session, a solid time of 2m31.608s placed him tenth quickest.
As track conditions improved during the day, so too did the times and nearly the entire field went quicker in the first qualifying session later in the afternoon. Slightly shorter at 45 minutes, Gary put in 13 laps on the Kawasaki ZX-10R this time and improved his lap time by almost three seconds, a time of 2m28.889s putting him ninth on the leaderboard.
Riding the bike campaigned during the season by Jake Dixon in the British Superbike Championship, the second and final qualifying session took place at 7.30am on Friday and all 28 riders were out on track early as they sought to secure the best grid position possible. Gary was out at the front with Michael Rutter and with grip levels having improved further, the whole field reduced their lap times in what was another extremely competitive session.
With 14 laps completed during the 45-minutes, Gary took almost two seconds off his lap time with his best lap of 2m27.159s coming on the 11th lap but such was the closeness of the times, he was only one second adrift of fifth place. As it is though, the 36-year old had to be content with tenth place overall and a fourth row start so he’ll be looking to make a good start and move up himself up the order in tomorrow’s race.
Gary Johnson: “I’ve been having a really good Macau Grand Prix and have been working really hard with all the team, adjusting the bike to the demands of a road race as it’s highlighted a few issues as expected. It’s been very positive throughout but, unfortunately, in qualifying, I got held up on my fast laps and my position of P10 doesn’t reflect how well myself and the bike are working. After qualifying we’ve highlighted some areas where we can make further improvements to the bike so we’re really looking forward to the warm up session in the morning – hopefully, we’ll be have some strong pace and be able to show what we’re capable of in the race. A massive thank you to all the team, we’ve gelled instantly so a good start to the race will set us up nicely!”
The 12-lap gets underway at 3.40pm (7.40am GMT) on Saturday.
Picture by Stephen Davison – Pacemaker Press International