| 10°C Belfast

How Tony Rutter became a motorcycling hero in the '70s and '80s

 

Close

Sad loss: the late Tony Rutter (right) with son Michael

Sad loss: the late Tony Rutter (right) with son Michael

Sad loss: the late Tony Rutter (right) with son Michael

It was with sadness that motorcycle racing learned of the death of Tony Rutter, one of the stars of the 1970s and '80s, aged 78.

Tony was a four-time F2 TT world champion, seven-time Isle of Man TT winner, nine-time North West 200 race victor, five-time Ulster Grand Prix winner and twice a British Championship title holder.

His son Michael, a seven-time TT and 14-time North West 200 winner, released a short statement saying: "It is with sadness that after a period of ill-health, dad passed away peacefully in the early hours of yesterday morning."

Tony was one of the many riders who travelled across from the mainland to Northern Ireland during the height of the Troubles in the '70s and became a star of our major road races, the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix.

He made his North West debut in 1970 and finished third in the 250cc race. He went on to finish on the podium in at least one race for 10 consecutive years and finished first or second in the 350cc races seven times in eight years between 1974 and 1982.

It was during the 1977 350cc race that Tony and Ray McCullough were judged inseparable, the only dead heat in the North West's 90-year history.

Tony had some great battles around Dundrod with the likes of John Williams, Tom Herron and Donny Robinson, winning five Ulster Grand Prix races between 1974 and 1982 - two in the 250 class, once in the 350, 500 and F2 classes - and finishing second in 1000cc races for three consecutive years (1976-78).

In 1981, he rode a Ducati in the F2 TT and won first time out, going on to take the F2 World Championship. A year later, he rode a works-entered F2 Ducati Pantah and won all three rounds of the Championship.

He went on to win the title again in '83 and '84 and was on course for a fifth consecutive title in 1985 when he was seriously injured in an F1 race at Montjuich Park in Spain. He returned in 1987, but never reached his former glory days.

Tony was always keen to attend any social functions organised by local supporters' clubs in Northern Ireland and was a great ambassador for the sport.

To Michael and all the Rutter family circle, we offer our deepest condolences.

Belfast Telegraph