HM Plant Honda Racing's Michael Rutter plans to continue his winning streak at Northern Ireland's premier road race event this weekend and prove that he is still the man to beat at the 8.9-mile public roads circuit.
The North West 200 is one of Ulster's most popular sporting events, which attracts over 200 competitors and 100,000 spectators annually to the North Antrim coast. Rutter has already proved that the HM Plant Honda Racing CBR1000RR is ideally suited to the long straights and exhilarating corners of the spectacular road racing circuit.
The 32-year-old Leicestershire rider claimed a double Superbike victory at last year's event aboard the Michelin-shod HRC-supported machine, taking his tally of wins to seven in the Superbike class and ten overall. It was a momentous occasion for the Midlander as he passed his father Tony's impressive record of nine victories in total.
The current 2005 Bennetts British Superbike Championship leader is also the lap record holder over the famous triangle circuit that links the towns of Portrush, Portstewart and Coleraine. He set a time of 4:27.40 in the second Superbike race 12 months ago on the HM Plant Honda.
However, Rutter will still face tough competition from his rivals in the eight-lap Dewalt and Blackhorse North West 200 Superbike races. This year's strong field includes fellow Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade riders Steve Plater (Honda-Racing.co.uk) and Ian Lougher (Team DMRR Honda Racing).
Michael Rutter: "The HM Plant Honda Racing CBR1000RR Fireblade and Michelin tyres worked really well here last year. Based on the improvements that we have made to the machine for the 2005 British Superbike Championship - compared with last year's series - I'm hoping that it will be even better suited to the North West 200's public roads circuit this year.
"There's a lot of tough competition and experienced riders to go up against but I'm feeling quite confident at the moment. I enjoy coming to the North West 200 because it's a bit of a break from the norm for me - it's so different to racing on the track. The atmosphere is fantastic and it's great to get so close to the crowds."
North West 200 - vital statistics;
- Circuit length: 8.9 miles
- Superbike lap record: 4:27.40 - Michael Rutter (HM Plant Honda Racing)
- 2004 Superbike race one winner: 1. M. Rutter; 2. J. McGuinness; 3. A. Archibald
- 2004 Superbike race two winner: 1. M. Rutter; 2. I. Lougher; 3. M.Finnegan
Race day schedule (roads close at 10am):
- Race one - Dewalt Superbike Race
- Race two - Kennedy Group 600cc Junior Race
- Race three - Club Soi 250cc & 125cc/400cc Races
- Race four - CP Hire Superstock Production Race
- Race five - Ballymoney Borough Council 600cc Race
- Race six - Blackhorse North West 200 Superbike Race