It was a day of mixed fortunes for Michael Rutter at the Junction One
International North West 200 in Northern Ireland. The HM Plant Honda
Racing star won the first Superbike race - his 11th victory over the
famous public roads circuit which links the towns of Portrush,
Portstewart and Coleraine - in front of more than 100,000 spectators,
but retired from the last race of the day.
The first Dewalt Superbike Race started in perfect conditions with
Rutter taking the lead on the charge down to University Corner on the
opening lap. The 2.9-second advantage held by the Leicestershire rider
at the end of lap one was dramatically reduced by Steve Plater on lap
three with a new lap record of 4:22.953 (122.750mph) on the
Honda-Racing.co.uk CBR1000RR Fireblade.
Plater then took the lead at Ballysally roundabout on the following lap,
which set up a thrilling climax to the six-lap race. Rutter used his
race craft and experience to best effect on the HM Plant Honda to
slipstream Plater and retake first place on the approach to University
Corner on lap five - setting a new lap record of 4:22.346 (123.034mph)
in the process. The result was too close to call but Rutter just held on
to his slim 0.249-second advantage at the chequered flag.
Rutter was on course for his second consecutive double win at the North
West 200 on his factory HRC-prepared CBR1000RR when fate intervened - in
the form of a shower of rain! A drying track left tyre choice a lottery
for the entire Superbike field as they lined up for the Blackhorse North
West 200 Superbike Race. Rutter opted for treaded Michelin tyres on the
front and rear of his factory Fireblade.
Fourth at the Ballysally roundabout and fifth at the Metropole, Rutter
had been relegated to sixth by the end of a gruelling first lap.
However, the HM Plant Honda rider responded to the challenge that lay
before him and started a customary charge to a possible podium finish.
He was running in fourth on lap four when the British Superbike
Championship leader decided to retire with only one lap remaining.
The leading positions in the two Superbike races were dominated by Honda
machinery. Rutter led home five CBR1000RR Fireblades in the top seven
finishers in the Dewalt-sponsored event. While Team DMRR Honda Racing's
Richard Britton narrowly missed out on victory in the Blackhorse NW200
race, he was followed home by team-mate Ian Lougher and three other
Honda Superbikes in the top nine finishers.
Michael Rutter: "The first race was too close for comfort. I knew from
practice that Steve [Plater] was going to be on my case - and so it
proved. I could see from my pit board that he was closing me down and
when he got past me I knew he was going to be difficult to pass.
However, I used the power of the HM Plant Honda to good effect down the
back straight and that was good enough to win the race - even if I had
to fight all the way to the finish.
"I was on a hiding to nothing in race two. I had possibly opted for the
wrong tyre choice for a wet, but drying track. However, I was thinking
of my British Superbike Championship lead and safety was of paramount
importance to me. By lap four there was no point in me continuing, so I
decided to take an early bath. It was a slightly frustrating end to the
day for HM Plant Honda Racing and the fans who came to support us, but
there was nothing more I could do under the circumstances."
Dewalt Superbike Race:
- 1. M. Rutter (HM Plant Honda Racing) 26:24.248
- 2. S. Plater (Honda-Racing.co.uk) +0.249
- 3. A. Archibald (Suzuki) +36.608
- 4. R. Britton (Team DMRR Honda Racing) +36.783
- 5. B. Anstey (Suzuki) +37.238
- 6. M. Finnegan (Honda) +45.246
Blackhorse North West 200 Superbike Race:
- 1. B. Anstey (Suzuki) 24:02.227
- 2. R. Britton (Team DMRR Honda Racing) +0.949
- 3. I. Lougher (Team DMRR Honda Racing) +23.206
- 4. M. Finnegan (Honda) + 38.040
- 5. G. Martin (Suzuki) +44.565
- 6. A. Archibald (Suzuki) + 45.061
- DNF - M. Rutter (HM Plant Honda Racing)