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North West 200: Michael Rutter’s form could see veteran reliving past glories

By Paul Lindsay

He used to be the main headline grabber on the North Coast and this year he is happy to slip in under the radar — well that was until Tuesday afternoon when he topped the Superstock session with a new unofficial lap record at 121.847mph.

If you haven’t already guessed it, the man in question is 13-time Vauxhall International North West 200 winner Michael Rutter.

The 44-year-old was undisputed King of the Triangle for many years, with nine of his 13 victories coming in the Superbike class.

Now in his 25th year of British championship competition, the Batham’s BMW rider is well capable of taking career victory number 14 at the North West this weekend, which would nudge him above Joey Dunlop (13) and just one behind Alastair Seeley and Robert Dunlop on 15.

His first victory was back in 1997 and he was also the first rider to break the magical 200mph barrier around the 8.9-mile circuit. This week all the talk is of Seeley taking a standalone 16th win, but a slip up for the Ulsterman and a top weekend for the Midlander could possibly even see him draw level with Seeley and Dunlop.

Granted he hasn’t won a NW200 race since 2012, but on top class German machinery, he’s more than capable of getting back to winning ways.

“I think it will be very difficult, but then again it will probably all come down to the last lap as it always does at Juniper Hill,” said Rutter pre-event.

Affectionately known as The Blade, there’s every chance Rutter could add a BMW win to his NW200 CV, which already includes top steps with Honda, Yamaha, Ducati and Kawasaki.

He also posted the fifth fastest time in the Superbike class during Tuesday’s session, which again makes him a worthy contender for honours.

All the hype has been about a 16th win for the Wee Wizard, but what about Rutter joining Dunlop on Seeley on 15 at the culmination of this year’s event — now that really would be a headline grabber.

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