Rutter has won a dozen times in this part of the world and his experience showed in a sizzling afternoon session.
In the end, he was too hot for his Ducati team-mate Martin Jessopp, who had to settle for second on the grid. Michael Dunlop grabbed third to keep his clan dreaming of glory in front of a bumper crowd tomorrow.
But Rutter’s joy was tempered by a crash that left his pal Stuart Easton in hospital.
“What happened to Stuart has definitely taken the edge off my achievement in getting pole,” said Rutter.
“It’s definitely put a downer on things for me.”
Easton sustained a fractured pelvis and broken fingers in a collision with MSS Colchester Kawasaki team-mate Gary Mason near Station Corner.
He was taken to the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine for treatment, before being transferred to the Royal Victoria in Belfast.
“It was a high-speed crash but fortunately not serious and the injuries are not life-threatening,” said NW200 Technical Director Mervyn Whyte.
Big things had been expected of Alastair Seeley after a terrific first practice on Tuesday, but problems with his machine’s fuel pressure meant he would miss out on a place in the front six.
The Carrickfergus rider, however, had the consolation of pole position in both the Superstock and Supersport 600 categories.
He was faster than Michael Dunlop and Rutter in the Superstock, and then bettered Gary Johnson and Michael Dunlop in the Supersport.
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