McGuinness rues poor start at Macau Grand Prix

John McGuinness in action at the 2016 Macau Grand Prix. Picture: Stephen Davison - Pacemaker Press International
John McGuinness in action at the 2016 Macau Grand Prix. Picture: Stephen Davison - Pacemaker Press International
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John McGuinness rued a poor start at the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix as he came home seventh.

The Morecambe Missile was left to ponder what might have been in Saturday’s 50th running of the race, a sluggish opening leaving him outside the top 10 with the Honda Racing rider then having a real battle on his hands.

McGuinness was making his 19th visit to the Far East venue and the week got off to a solid start on Thursday when, after posting the fifth fastest time in free practice, he took more than two and a half seconds off his lap time in the first qualifying session later that afternoon to take provisional fourth on the grid.

Friday’s second and final qualifying session saw the Isle of Man TT great lap more than a second quicker once more although such was the competitiveness of the field, he slipped back to eighth.

Despite overnight rain, conditions were good and dry for Saturday afternoon’s 12-lap race but McGuinness’ hopes of a ninth podium at the event were hit right from the off when a slow start left him 12th at the end of the first lap.

With the 3.8-mile demanding Guia circuit notoriously difficult for overtaking, he found progress not easy to come by but after overtaking Dan Cooper for 11th on the third lap, he found himself part of a four-man battle for eighth along with Gary Johnson, Stuart Easton and newcomer Derek Sheils.

At half race distance he moved ahead of Sheils to climb into the top 10 and on the 10th lap this became ninth as he also overhauled Johnson.

With fourth-placed Glenn Irwin going out at the start of the penultimate lap, McGuinness was promoted up the order to eighth and he moved up another spot to seventh on the final lap as he overtook Ian Hutchinson.

Giving it 100 per cent right up until the chequered flag, the resort racer had a last lap scrap with Easton with the two fighting all the way to the line although McGuinness had to settle for seventh as Peter Hickman claimed the race win for the second year in a row.

“A rubbish start cost me, it’s as simple as that,” McGuinness said.

“I was way outside the top 10 at the end of the first lap, never mind the start, and if you’re not in the first few riders going into Lisboa corner on the first lap you’ve got no chance around here.

“I kept plugging away though and picked a few riders off whilst it was a good battle with Stuart, Gary, Hutchy and Derek, one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

“It’s hard to believe it was my 19th time at Macau – I’ve no idea where the time’s gone.

“The place has changed quite a bit over the years and this year felt a bit different too as it was my last race on my faithful Fireblade.

“With the new model coming out in 2017, I’ve had to say goodbye to the old girl and it’s fair to say we’ve enjoyed some good times together.

“Seventh this weekend wasn’t the result I wanted to finish the season with but I’m safe and in one piece whilst it’s been a really enjoyable week with the team.”