High flying road racing star Michael Rutter is hoping that it will be lucky 13 when he rides in the Relentless North West 200 on May 15.
Rutter, at the launch of this year's race in Belfast yesterday, said: “I have run up 12 successes at the North West, beginning with a double in 1997. I'm hoping to continue the sequence this year despite having a poor 2009 when I failed to get a place on the leaderboard in any race.
“Last year was also my worst North West for many years but I am hopeful that this year I will do the business on a Ducati which will be run under the North West 200 banner, just like in 2008 when I won the opening Superbike race.
“Everything went pear shaped last year and I was bitterly disappointed with my displays for Yamaha. Hopefully my return to Ducati will bring about something special.”
The Ducati has been provided for Rutter by former North West sponsor Alistair Kennedy, continuing his link with the race now energy drink Relentless have taken over as title sponsor with Black Horse motorcycle insurance as associate backer.
Rutter is conscious that right behind him in terms of wins is Steve Plater who has gone from strength to strength since he had a double at the North West in 2006.
Since then it has been a case of knocking out multiple wins and in many cases he is very much like a darts player who has found the secret of continuous salvos of ‘180’.
Plater scored a double last year and would probably have made it a treble had the final Supebike race not been run because of torrential rain.
Plater said at yesterday's Belfast Waterfront Hall launch: “I have suddenly got the hang of what it takes to win at the North West and I feel I can do the business once again. I have eight wins in the event which puts me four behind Michael. I could reuce that lead this year.”
Rutter is conscious of Plater’s success and said: “Steve is 44 this year and I am 37 so I feel it’s ironic that he is the rider doing the catching up rather than me. He is a tremendous rider round this circuit and he seems to have the knack of winning.”
Rutter is also hoping to cut a dash in the British Championship which again saw him in the doldrums in 2009.
He said: “ I thought I should have done better last time but perhaps if I get a win under my belt at the North West it will spark off something special.”
Looking to walk tall at the North West will be 6ft 4in Connor Cummins, the Isle of Man rider aiming to improve on his performance of last year when he had a fifth place in the Superbike.
Cummins will be on the Winston McAdoo Kawasakis in the Supersport, Superbike and Superstock classes.
He has a terrific record on the roads and finished second to Platter in the Senior TT last year.
He said: “Obviously Rutter, Guy Martin and John McGuinness will be the ones to beat and I am not forgetting the TAS pair of Cameron Donald and Bruce Anstey. But I was second at Macau, only beaten by Stuart Easton there in November, and I feel top of my form.
“The North West 200 has a special place for me — it was where I rode in my first road race in 2006. I feel in good form and McAdoo has the bikes in top notch order. I am hopeful of getting on the rostrum at the end of one of the races but I know it won’t be easy.
“Last year I won one of the Superbike races at the Ulster Grand Prix and was also first in the Dundrod 150.”