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Monday, January 30, 2023

Macau Grand Prix: Isle of Man TT winner Lee Johnston on why he is not going

Lee Johnston finished fifth in the 2019 Macau Grand Prix

A seven-day quarantine to combat the spread of Covid-19 meant taking part in this weekend’s Macau motorcycle grand prix was “not feasible”, says Isle of Man TT winner Lee Johnston.

The event did not take place in 2019 and 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic but returns this year.

No former winners or podium finishers are in the small field of 15 riders in the official entry list.

“It’s not really feasible to be away that long,” said Johnston, 33.

The Northern Ireland rider, winner of a Supersport race at the 2019 TT, has twice finished fifth – in 2014 and 2019 – around the 3.8-mile Guia course in the Far East.

The street circuit features a combination of fast straights and tight corners, with the track’s minimum width being only seven metres.

The meeting, held from 17-19 November, also accommodates four-wheel motorsport.

Johnston rides for and manages the Ashcourt Racing team and races at the North West 200 and TT, plus the British Supersport championship on short circuits.

“All the staff in our team get paid, so to pay staff to sit in a hotel room for seven days before the meeting even started would not make sense,” added the Fermanagh native.

“You can only beat whoever is there of course but with no disrespect intended to those taking part, even if you did win it, it would still always be remembered as the year nobody went.”

‘I love the place, I wish I was there’

Michael Rutter
Michael Rutter claimed a record ninth Macau motorcycle grand prix in 2019

The event regularly attracts many of the top names in road racing, including record nine-time winner Michael Rutter, British Superbike regular and TT lap record holder Peter Hickman, 23-time TT winner John McGuinness and Ian Hutchinson.

However they and several other leading names have opted out of this year’s race because of the seven-day quarantine period.

“I love the place and I wish I was there but I just couldn’t do the seven days sitting in a room. It was a reasonably straightforward decision but I’d hope to go back next year,” said Rutter.

First female competitor

British riders Rob Hodson, Joey Thompson, Matt Stevenson and Paul Williams are among those participating.

A strong European contingent includes Swiss rider Lukas Maurer, Frenchman Timothee Monot, Erno Kostamo of Finland, Spanish competitor Raul Torras Martinez, Austrian Julian Trummer, Belgian Laurent Hoffmann and German David Datzer.

Dutch racer Nadieh Schoots will become the first female competitor to take part in the motorcycle section of the meeting.

This year’s event will revert to a two-race format rather than the traditional single race of recent years, both being over eight laps.

Qualifying starts on Thursday, with the races held on Saturday.

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