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Rutter wins Sunflower Trophy

By Jimmy Walker

It was going to be a tale of two Michaels. That was the view of those who knew about these things when the Sunflower Trophy took place at a wind battered Bishopscourt yesterday.

The only trouble was as far as Ulster fans were considered was that it was the ‘wrong' Michael who won. Michael Rutter who has long had a virtual love affair with the North West 200 came out on top — for the second time in the Sunflower Race which he last won at Kirkistown in 2001.

But apart from Rutter's brilliance you had to hand it to John Laverty, the ‘other’ Michael's brother.

With the wind blowing bikes everywhere and conditions dreadful to say the least, Laverty led the field from the start and it was John still in front as they came into the closing stages.

Then however, it all went wrong for the Laverty family. Rutter took over from the head of affairs from John Laverty on the eighth lap and he held this until the finish. Worse was in store for the Laverty name when Michael lost third place on the last lap to Chris Walker who was making his first appearance at Bishopscourt.

After Rutter, John Laverty and Walker we had Michael Laverty, Marshall Neill and Alastair Seeley.

Afterwards John Finlay, the sponsor, said: "It’s good to have a new name on the trophy for young Laverty has won it five times in the last six years."

It was certainly an amazing record for the Toomebridge rider.

Since 2002 Laverty has dominated the Sunflower Trophy with only Jonathan Rea's victory in 2006 breaking up a remarkable sequence.

Rutter who has won 14 times at the North West 200 was flying the flag for that race by riding the North West machine. And in fact it was a North West 1, 2 for John Laverty was also on a North West Ducati.

Afterwards Rutter said: "It is a long time from that win at Kirkistown and I last rode in the Sunflower at Bishopscourt in 1992 when Jim Moodie won.

“It really was fantastic to win today and I was delighted with young John who was riding my spare machine.

“I thought at one stage I might not get past him, then towards the finish I rode past the scene of an accident that seemed to slow John up and I got past him there.

“I am delighted to win on the North West 200 bike. As you know I won at the North West in May and this was a good follow up. I'll now ride for the North West in Macu in November."

Chris Walker said: "It is really hard work on a day like that. I was buffeted about all over the track but at one stage I thought I would win.

“The only trouble was I couldn't get past Michael Laverty in third place."

John Laverty said: "Michael Rutter was better than I was along the back stretch and he had the gears to win the race. Still it was nice to have two North West 200 bikes in the first two."

Michael Laverty said: "I'm not so good on the wet and everybody knows this. I am disappointed that I lost third place on the last lap for that meant I was not able to go on the podium along with John.

“My future is uncertain at the moment for I am not sure who I will be with next year. I should know something more this week."

And so the 27-year-old took a gulp of water and looked round for what was a strange position for him.

Michael was used to being on the podium and when Rea beat him he was second. Still all good things come to an end and who knows what would happen next year.

Interestingly enough Hector Neill, owner of the TAS team whom Michael Laverty rode for, said shortly before the race started: "We'll not win today. The weather is against us."

It seemed he was right.

Meanwhile, Waterford road racer Brian McCormack used to make the tea for former Irish Superbike Champion Hilton Hinks.

Yesterday at Bishopscourt on the second day of the Sunflower Trophy meeting, Brian became a champion in his own right.

Brian won the Irish Superbike title when he finished 12th in the final round.

Belfast Telegraph

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