When Michael Rutter was asked how many years he had been coming to the North West 200 during the race launch in Belfast last week, the Birmingham rider replied
“I first came in 1992. Everything was in black and white back then, colour hadn’t been invented yet!”
It was typical self effacing humour that belies an incredible record of racing milestones. With 13 North West 200 wins, 4 TT victories, 8 Macau firsts and 28 BSB race wins that have given him two runner up positions in the overall BSB series, the 42 year old could justifiably claim to be the best all rounder in the world if he were a less modest man.
Not since the heydays of Fogarty and Hislop, who Rutter has raced against, have we seen anyone accomplish so much in circuit racing and between the hedges. The son of Seventies road racing hero, Tony, Rutter Junior has come a long way since he first threw his leg over a race bike in 1989 and his third place finish in the 1991 British Superteens series.
His first BSB ride came in 1992 and between 1994 and 1998 ‘Blade’ as he is nicknamed, was never out of the top six in the Series standings. In 1997 the Midlands racer stood on the World Superbike podium at Brand Hatch and in 1999 he added to his racing repertoire by racing a full year in the 500cc Grand Prix series on Joe Millar’s Yamaha.
Rutter’s performances in the early years of the Noughties gave him the highpoints of his circuit racing career. Between 2002 and 2005 he finished second twice and third twice in the overall standings riding Renegade Ducatis and HM Plant Hondas. By that stage Rutter had already made his mark on the roads, winning his first North West in 1996, his first Macau GP in 1998 and the Junior TT in 1998.
His current tally of 13 North West wins means he stands equal with Joey Dunlop in the overall winners’ listings, just two victories behind Robert. The 42 year old’s 8 Macau wins are a record, two better than previous best, Ron Haslam.
After his first win in 1998, Rutter’s TT career seemed set to blossom. Aside from that 600cc victory he enjoyed six top flight podiums between 1997 and 2000, including taking two runner up places to Joey Dunlop in the Formula One race and David Jefferies in the Senior TT in 2000. His shift of focus towards the circuits at that time probably robbed Rutter of more top step TT finishes but he has won three electric bike races in recent years on the MotoCzysz machine, notching up the first ever 100mph plus TT lap in 2012 on an electric powered bike.
Rutter may be moving into the twilight years of that glorious career, but he has just secured a Motorrad backed BMW ride for Rico Penskofer’s squad for the new season. At the moment he is a non starter in BSB for 2015 after racing in the series for over 20 years but there’s every chance that could change as the year unfolds.
Rutter is familiar with BMW machinery having raced a S1000RR in Bathams colours last year. Noone is more experienced at the North West 200, where he became the first man to hit over 200 mph on a British circuit in 2005.
The modest Midlans man stood on a NW200 podium twice in 2014 and there is every chance that he will be back up there again on May 16 this year.
The Michael Rutter success story may not be over just yet!