Michael Rut­ter is still win­ning af­ter a ca­reer span­ning al­most 30 years – how the hell does he do it?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Front Page - By Oli Rushby BSB RE­PORTER @Mc­n­sport mo­tor­cy­cle­news

ÔHow long have I even been rac­ing? I think my first year was 1989,” says Michael Rut­ter, who was 17 when he fol­lowed in his fa­ther’s wheel tracks. He didn’t ex­pect to still be rac­ing, and win­ning, some 28 years later, aged 45. At least, that’s how old we think he is – his ac­tual age may well have been lost over years hag­gling a Bri­tish Su­per­bike ride as he moved from his mid to late thir­ties.

From short-cir­cuit rac­ing to road rac­ing, Bri­tish Su­per­bikes to Grand Prix, Rut­ter has been there and done it all. This year he won the Light­weight race at the Isle of Man TT (as well as the North West 200), his first petrolpow­ered win on the Moun­tain Course in 19 years. It’s not just on the roads that he’s still en­joy­ing suc­cess ei­ther.

Last year he fin­ished fourth in the Na­tional Su­per­stock 1000 cham­pi­onship – against many rac­ers young enough to be his kids – with four podi­ums and a win. He also sits third in this year’s ti­tle chase with two races to go.

We went for a pint with the veteran ace to find out how, and why, he’s still dic­ing for wins in 2017…

Why the hell are you still rac­ing? “I some­times have to ask my­self that ques­tion. Luck­ily, I’ve got a re­ally good team around me, funded by Bathams, and for the last seven years it’s been re­ally en­joy­able be­cause I’ve been able to do my own thing and go in whichever di­rec­tion I choose.

“Roger Mar­shall once said to me that the big­gest mis­take he ever made was giv­ing up rac­ing. He told me to make sure I was 100% that it was right for me when I chose to give up, but even when I’ve had a bad year I’ve had some­thing to en­joy. If the short cir­cuits have been s*** then road rac­ing has been al­right, so that’s kept me go­ing.”

In Su­per­stock, you’re rac­ing against some lads young enough to be your son? “It’s fright­en­ing. I re­mem­ber look­ing up at peo­ple like Steve Hislop and Terry Rymer and think­ing, ‘Look how old they look, why are they still go­ing?’ But when you get to that age you still feel the same! The big­gest dif­fer­ence now is if I’m go­ing for an over­take I think about it in­stead of just do­ing it. It an­noys me a bit be­cause be­fore I’d just do it.

“You do watch them and you think ‘oh my god’. All they need to do is just slow down a bit and they’ll find a sec- ond a lap! We’ve all been there, we’ve all done it and you learn with age.”

What do you make of their sun­glasses and flat-peak caps? “They all go through stages, but we’ve all been there. Some of it is spon­sor­ship, but it’s def­i­nitely that kind of era. It’s not as bad these days but there was a pe­riod about five or six years ago when ev­ery­body had to look like Tom Cruise.”

Your rid­ing style doesn’t seem to have changed much over the years… “That’s the prob­lem, it hasn’t. That’s what holds me back mas­sively now. In 2000/02/03 you could get away with loads of cor­ner speed, lean an­gle and us­ing the side of the tyre. If I’ve got grip on the side of the tyre I’m OK.

“All this mov­ing around the bike, sit­ting the bike up, I’ve tried to do it. Ev­ery time I go into a cor­ner I try to get my­self to sit it up but I’m stuck in my old ways.

“I brake with my all my fin­gers, too. Years ago, you couldn’t stop the thing with­out pulling on the lever like hell, so I re­ally can’t get used to us­ing just two fin­gers. I went around in Spain for a whole week just try­ing to use two fin­gers as we’d worked out I was los­ing so many tenths of a sec­ond in go­ing for the lever in a cor­ner. It didn’t go so well, so I thought, sod it!”

Do you re­gret not win­ning BSB in 2004? “That was the clos­est I ever came. It was the first time HRC had put loads into BSB and we were ex­pected to win. Honda are so stub­born in their ways, bril­liant in oth­ers, but we had some prob­lems.

“An­other el­e­ment was the Miche­lins. When they worked they were a tyre from God, but un­for­tu­nately when they didn’t work there was no warn­ing - they just threw you on the floor. They took an ar­tic lorry full of tyres for me

‘I had noth­ing to lose, so I put my head down and gapped Foggy’

and Kiyo. The tyre bill was £450,000 for the year.

“Qual­i­fy­ing at Thrux­ton was a big turn­ing point. The thing flung me through the air and I dis­placed one col­lar­bone and cracked the other. I raced the same day but it wasn’t great; that put us a bit be­hind. Kiyo beat me as much as I beat him, so there were no team or­ders to help out at the end of the sea­son. If I’d had a bit of help it could have been dif­fer­ent.”

How much of an in­flu­ence was your fa­ther, Tony, in rac­ing? “Mas­sive. He was F2 World Cham­pion and I’d been to most cir­cuits in Eng­land be­fore I even started. I grew up through it and it’s amaz­ing to be part of that, see­ing both the highs and the lows. Dad went through a hor­rific crash in 1985 that put me off quite a lot. I’ve seen the up­sides to rac­ing but I’ve def­i­nitely seen the down­sides too, when you’re ad­just­ing bolts in your Dad’s head, it’s pretty hor­ren­dous.”

What’s your favourite rac­ing mem­ory? “World Su­per­bikes at Brands Hatch in 1997. I can’t re­mem­ber where we fin­ished in the first race but the sec­ond one was a two-part race, dry and then it rained.

“Luck­ily about two weeks be­fore we had had a wet race at Brands Hatch, so we al­ready had a good set­ting fro the bike. I had ab­so­lutely noth­ing to lose and started to over­take peo­ple and found my­self in P3.

“I got be­hind Foggy, who was lead­ing, and I didn’t want to pass him. If I’d taken him out I’d have been shot. I fol­lowed him round for two laps but he was hold­ing me up so I thought, sod it, I’ll go past him, got my head down and pulled a bit of a gap. Foggy was one of my he­roes, so to pass him at Brands with all that crowd...”

What did you learn from your year in Grand Prix? “You need a good bike. I re­mem­ber Kenny Roberts Jnr pulling out of the pits on the Suzuki as I was com­ing down the straight at Paul Ri­card on a fly­ing lap and he’d passed me by the end of the straight. I had ab­so­lutely no chance.

“I stuck at it though. Ev­ery sea­son I’ve tried to fin­ish what I’ve started. I wanted to do ev­ery GP, and I did. I nearly had a chance at test­ing the Red Bull Yamaha and you only need one bit of luck. If I’d had a go on one I could have gone a lot bet­ter than I did on that thing.”

How much longer can you go on? “It de­pends what I’m do­ing. I think on the roads, if I still en­joy it, I can do it for a few more years. Short cir­cuits are get­ting more dif­fi­cult with age. I’ve got a bril­liant team and a bril­liant bike, but I could do with be­ing 20 years younger some­times! The bike is ca­pa­ble of win­ning, but some­times I’m not.”

‘The bike is ca­pa­ble of win­ning, but some­times I’m not’

Rut­ter took his first petrol win at the T T in 19 years on the Pa­ton S1-R

When Rut­ter re­tires, he can al­ways be­come a pub land­lord

No flat-peaks or sun­glasses in sight for the el­der states­man

Rut­ter’s rac­ing ca­reer has spanned three gen­er­a­tions

Rut­ter was sec­ond to Hislop in BSB in ’02

He might be in his for­ties but he’s still got it

Pass­ing Foggy at Brands is one of Rut­ter’s high­lights 2004 BSB was a close miss for Rut­ter

GP rac­ing showed the im­por­tance of the bike

Rut­ter has the record for the most wins at Ma­cau

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