Rutter will fly flag for Northwest 200 team
Eleven times Northwest 200 winner Michael Rutter will lead a newly-formed team under the banner of the Portstewart race at the British Superbike Championship next year.
The new team will be called Team Northwest 200 and will be backed by the race's sponsors The Kennedy Group with the machines coming from Italy - the high-class and almost legendary Ducati outfit.
In addition to Rutter, Toomebridge rider John Laverty will also ride a Ducati for Team Northwest 200 in the British Superstock Championship.
The Kennedy Group has announced that the complete package undertaken by the company will cost a staggering £750,000 and represents a highly significant financial input by the NorthWest 200 title sponsor. The partnership will help position the North West 200 as the premiere road racing spectacle in the world and will ensure the continued attendance of the BSB manufacturers and teams.
Mervyn Whyte, one of the brains behind the new move and the clerk of the course, said: "It's marvellous to have our name advertised throughout the British Championship.
"We know that this is a tremendous boost for the race as it now takes us onto unknown but very exciting territory.
"Of course the new machines - ridden by Rutter and Laverty - will also compete at the North West 200 in May, in addition to the 12 rounds of the BSB."
Two Ducati superbike machines will be made available by the Bologna-based Ducati factory and Rutter will be the number one as in addition to his 11 wins at the Northwest he is also the speed trap record holder having averaged over 200mph.
The package will include two superstock machines in addition to the superbike and all being well it looks as though the North West 200 will receive a major boost from this new move.
Whyte added: "I'm delighted with this initiative. It's the icing on the cake and will raise the North West 200 profile throughout the new season.
"This will provide a tremendous boost to the race and to the British Superbike Championship."
JHP Ducati Racing Coventry, who are the men behind the Italian machine input, have a major heritage in that they are owned by engine tuner John Hackett and managed by his race team partner Ken Foley.
JHP have been instrumental in the career success of many household names in superbike racing such as Troy Bayliss, Steve Hislop, Scott Smart, Leon Haslam and of course Rutter himself.
John Hackett said: "This is a great opportunity for everyone involved with the team and I'm really looking forward to working with Michael Rutter again.
"In my opinion he is still one of the best riders in the game and one of the few naturally talented smooth racers whose style will suit Ducati perfectly."