Saturday was a special day for North West 200 veteran Michael Rutter as the 40-year-old claimed his 13th victory on the Triangle.
It’s five years since the Englishman stood on the top step of the podium so it was all the sweeter as he came from the second wave of riders to clinch the Supersport win.
And in doing so he he made a little piece of North West history, drawing level with Joey Dunlop and he is now just two wins behind the all-time record of Robert Dunlop.
Rutter’s last win at the event had come in 2008 when he piloted the North West 200-branded Ducati to a memorable victory in the opening Superbike race.
An emotional Rutter said: “Records are not something you think about, but to match Joey and be only two behind Robert is special.
“I raced with both of them and it’s just a great, great pity that they are still not with us. That was a special race win. I was getting great pit signals from my team and I knew exactly where I was in the race.
“I was catching other riders on the last few laps and was just praying I came across them in good positions so as not to lose my momentum and get held up.
“It’s thanks to a lot of local sponsors like the Anchor Bar, Cyril Johnston and Vauxhall that I was able to compete this year at the North West and it is great to repay their faith in me and reward all those fans, who were urging me on throughout the race once they knew I was going to upset the form book.
“To stand on the top step of that podium, looking out over the water and listen to the cheers of the fans is what road racing is all about. This place and event really is something special.”
Firm fans favourite Rutter and his MSS Bathams Kawasaki was languishing back on the 11th row of the grid, after qualifying, in the second group of riders.
Determined to put on a show he finished the opening lap of six in fourth position on corrected time as Alastair Seeley, Ryan Farquhar, John McGuinness and James Hillier disputed the lead of the race on the roads.
At the end of lap two Rutter, with a clear track in front of him, despite being in 14th position on the road, was actually leading the race by just over half a second having flown through the speed trap at close to 190mph.
Keeping his pace, as the leading quartet on the road tripped each other up in their intense battle, Rutter set a new class lap record of 120.153mph on the final lap to take the race win by seven seconds from Seeley, who won Thursday’s Superstock race, the impressive Hillier and Farquhar with McGuinness fifth.