MICHAEL Rutter equalled Ulster road racing legend Joey Dunlop’s tally of 13 victories at the Relentless International North West 200 with a sensational victory on the MSS Bathams Kawasaki.
Veteran Rutter started from the second group after failing to post a fast time in Tuesday’s dry qualifying session on his ZX-10R, but that didn’t stop the 40-year-old Midlands rider as he set a new lap record for the class at 120.153mph on his way to victory.
Rutter is now just two wins adrift of Robert Dunlop’s all-time record of 15 successes at the famous international road race after he returned to the top step at the North West for the first time since 2008.
Tyco Suzuki’s Alastair Seeley was the first rider across the line on his GSX-R1000 after a thrilling battle throughout the six-lap race – which was restarted following the fatal accident involving Scottish rider Mark Buckley on the first lap of the initial race.
Rutter said: “I was trying my hardest and I can’t fault the bike, it didn’t do one thing wrong. I just got my head down out there and felt like I was racing again.
“I was lucky with backmarkers because I was only held up slightly once or twice but I can’t moan, can I?”
Runner-up Seeley felt slightly irked by the manner in which the race was won by Rutter.
“It’s a bit disappointing because I think whoever wins on the road should win the race.
“It was a tough race and Ryan and James were dicing with each other and if I had a clear track I might have been alright,” he said.
“I just tried to ride as hard as I could and on the last half a lap I managed to break them but it wasn’t enough.
“I made a move on Ryan at the start/finish chicane but it didn’t really matter much because once they got onto the big straights they were able to pass me,” he added.
“I knew James had a fast bike after he came past me in qualifying but I didn’t expect him to be up on the podium, so fair play to him.”