Ireland: Rutter looks to take all time record at this years North West 200
Already the winner of 13 races at the Vauxhall International North West 200, veteran Michael Rutter will return to Portrush next week to try to close the gap on the late Robert Dunlop’s all-time record of 15 victories at the seaside venue.
The 42 year old will have a completely new line-up of machinery for this season’s campaign following his switch from Kawasaki to BMW power for his black and gold Batham’s Brewery backed Superbike and Superstock machines.
“We have switched to BMW this year and we didn’t go too bad at the opening BSB round at Brands Hatch with a 12th place finish in one race.” Rutter explained.
“We only really had two weeks to get the bike set up but there has been a good test at Castle Coombe since Brands and the bike is a lot better now.”
Rutter has always excelled on the bigger bikes bikes and the Birmingham rider has 9 superbike race wins on the Triangle course, a feat only equalled by Joey Dunlop.
“I have raced a BMW at the North West before for the Riders Motorcycles.com team in 2010.” he recalls.
“It was in Superstock trim and I had the fastest lap that year in both the Superstock and Superbike races.”
Rutter’s last North West win was in the Superstock race in 2012, his 13th victory and one that moved him into joint second in the all-time winners’ list alongside Joey Dunlop. The BSB rider will have an extra string to his bow for 2014 with a ride on the Smith’s Triumphs in both of the North West Supersport races alongside team-mate, Gary Johnson.
“It must be about 100 years ago since I rode a 600 at the North West-I didn’t realise that they still built them.” he joked.
“But the Triumphs seem to be very fast. We had a private test in Spain and the bike felt really good so I’m looking forward to getting out there on them.”
In fact the 42 year old last rode an R6 Yamaha in the colours of Ballymoney team, JMF Millsport, in 2009 and he has twice been a winner of the 600cc class at Portrush. Does he think he can take the fight to the smaller class specialists like Mar-Train’s Alastair Seeley in 2014?
“It will be very hard to beat Alastair on any bike at the North West.” Rutter says.
“He is riding a 600 every weekend and he is the man in form. Seeley is the one to beat but I will try to put a bit of pressure on him.”
Rutter also lists BMW mounted Michael Dunlop as one of his main rivals who could prevent him from reaching the magical tally of 15 wins.
“If Michael is in the right frame of mind he will be very competitive.” he says.
But it is Milwaukee Yamaha duo Josh Brookes and Ian Hutchinson that Rutter feels will present the greatest threat at the 2014 North West.
The North West 200 rules will allow Shaun Muir’s team to run the full blown YZF R1 rather than the more restricted BSB spec machines on the superfast 8.9 mile superfast Triangle course and Rutter thinks that this will give his BSB rivals a huge advantage.
“I raced against the Yamaha at Macau last year and it is the bike to beat.” he warns.
“It will have traction control and all the rest of the electronics for the North West and with Hutchy and Brookes on it it will take a very good bike to beat it on the day.”