Michael Rutter continued to set the pace during opening qualifying for the 50th Macau Grand Prix as the eight-time winner pulled further clear at the top of the time sheets.

Bathams/SMT BMW rider Rutter, who is chasing an unprecedented ninth victory during the Golden Jubilee meeting of the famous motorcycle race, headed Martin Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles BMW) by nine tenths as he improved is time from free practice by more than two seconds, lapping in 2m 24.8s.

"The track is very clean, but it's very, very hot," Rutter said. "I did as many laps as possible to get a feel for the tyres. It was a good session."

Behind Jessopp, Ian Hutchinson improved to third on the Tyco BMW, 2.5 seconds behind Rutter, with John McGuinness also climbing the order to fourth on the Honda Racing Fireblade.

Penz13.com BMW rider Gary Johnson and Horst Saiger (Kawasaki) finalised the top six.

British Superbike rider Glenn Irwin has made a huge impact already on his debut at the event, slotting into seventh place on the PBM Be Wiser Ducati. Irwin, a podium finisher in the Supersport class at the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix, was only 2.9 seconds down on Rutter as the Northern Ireland rider gets to grips with the challenging 3.8-mile Guia course.

He finished ahead of Conor Cummins (Honda Racing) and last year's winner Peter Hickman (Bathams/SMT BMW), while Stuart Easton - also riding a Bathams/SMT BMW in a strong line up for Robin Croft - rounded out the top ten.

Germany's Didier Grams was 11th on the Heidger Motorsport BMW followed by Ireland's Derek Sheils, who has also made an impressive start at Macau on his first appearance at the event on the Cookstown B.E. Racing Suzuki.

Dan Cooper (BMW), Steve Mercer (Briggs BMW) and Manx rider Dan Kneen on the Mar-Train Yamaha R1 were the top 15.



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