‘I never thought i’d win another TT’
Old dog Rutter dominates Lightweight race on Paton
Michael Rutter returned to the top step of the Isle of Man TT podium in Wednesday’s Bennetts Lightweight race, clinching his first petrol TT win since he took victory almost two decades ago in the 1998 Junior race.
The veteran racer, who turned 45 this year, dominated the four-lap race to take victory for the SC Project Paton team despite losing eight seconds to rival Martin Jessopp in the pits.
“I never thought I’d win another TT,” laughed Rutter, whose other three TT victories came in the TT Zero class from 2011-2013. “I’m well happy with that. On the last lap I heard so many noises, I was convinced it wasn’t going to happen! I’ve led so many races around here, Superbike races, everything, and I’ve had punctures, contact lenses fall out, pistons break, but something went right for once. It’s good, because I haven’t won on a petrol bike since 1998. Obviously there’s the TT Zero wins but…”
14 times a TT podium finisher, Rutter has long been known for his success on the roads but he believes there’s a reason why he’s won so few TT races.
“I haven’t won many TTS, I should have won a lot more as I’ve had brilliant bikes and brilliant teams. But to win around here you’ve got to be pushing on. I’ve been brought up with it by my dad; I’ve been here every year since I was born. I know what can happen, it’s a dangerous game and I’ve always tried to give myself breathing room, but to win a race you can’t do that. These days it’s short circuit stuff out there.”
It’s been a good year all-round for Rutter, who also returned to the top step at the North West 200 earlier this season with victory again in the 650cc Supertwins category, although there he was riding for Ryan Farquhar’s KMR Kawasaki team.
“It’s good to have won on two different twins this year,” he said. “It was great to win for Ryan at the North West after everything he’s been through, and again with the Italian lads at Paton – I haven’t a clue what they’re saying half the time, but they’re so nice, anything I want them to do they do, and the bike is absolutely immaculate. It’s beautiful so it’s brilliant to win for them.
“It’s so much easier racing the lightweights. That sounds bad, because it isn’t easy! You’ve got to ride them bloody hard, you’re forever folding the front. But those Superbikes and Superstock bikes are like warp factor. These days it’s very difficult to beat people like Hutchy and Michael Dunlop. Give me the North West and I’ll have a go at them but around here, if we can get on the podium in one of those races it’d be like winning.”
However, it’s not just the Lightweight victories Rutter has been celebrating. He’s been on the ball in both the National Superstock 1000 Championship and on the Superbike and Superstock machines on the international road racing scene this year.
“I love racing, and what makes it even more special is we’ve a small team here. There are just four of us working on the BMWS and then I ride for the Italians at Paton in the twin
‘You can’t give yourself breathing room. These days it’s short circuit stuff out there’
race here. We all enjoy it; we have a real good laugh. We come here for results like everybody else, but while we’ve got a decent budget we can’t throw everything and anything at it like some other teams, so we do all right really.”
Despite being, in his own words, ‘cracking on a bit’, Rutter has no plans to hang up his leathers just yet, but he is making plans for the future to still be involved with racing and give something back to the sport when he is ready to call it a day.
“I’d like to be back out there next year, but we’re having a look at what to do with the whole Bathams/smt team. We’d quite like to bring in a younger rider, someone to fill my shoes as I can’t go on forever. I’m not getting any younger, we want to get someone, especially from the Midlands, and try to bring someone else along with me for a year or so. Then I can step back into looking after the team.”
Almost 20 years since his last petrol-powered TT victory, Rutter is on top again