The Rider…

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When it comes to time served and sheer quantity of laps of the TT course to their name, Michael Rutter probably has more than any other competitor past or present. His dad Tony got his first podium finish in 1972 alongside Giacomo Agostini just a few weeks after Michael was born, and though he was just a newborn baby, he was there, and he’s been going to the TT ever since. He made his own debut as a TT racer in 1994 soon after Tony retired and has been racing there ever since, apart from a few years when he rode for teams that wouldn’t let him race there (HRC).

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As fate would have it, his lap on the KTM would take place on the morning of Senior race day, so at that point in time Rutter had started 74 TT races – 92 if you include Classic TT race starts – and he has won seven TTs and finished on the podium 18 times. His mentors when he started out were Steve Hislop, Robert Dunlop and Phil McCallen who all helped him learn the course and gave him tips, none of which helped Rutter when the brake lever of his RC45 fell off during his first ever lap as a newcomer. He finished the lap with just his back brake, not really knowing which way the course went, in something like 40 minutes – which earned him a bollocking from the team manager for being so slow.

Since then, his personal best lap of the TT course is 131.7mph which he did in the 2016 Superstock race at a time when lapping faster than 130mph was as big a deal as lapping over 135mph is today. Rutter was one of just a handful of people at the time to lap at over 130mph and today, six years later, that lap still ranks him as the 11th fastest person to ever lap the TT course in its history. As far as credentials go for this test, Rutter has all the answers, and if there is a more qualified person to do this lap for us who doesn’t have to pander to a manufacturer’s company line, we have yet to meet him.

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Of course, Rutter isn’t ‘just’ one of the most experienced and longest-serving TT racers that the event has ever seen, he’s also competed in 431 BSB races, winning 29 of them and getting 109 podiums. He’s also won 14 times at the Northwest 200 and eight times at the Macau Grand Prix, most recently in 2019 when it was last run. Rutter’s career stats are those of someone who has been able to turn his hand to any class in any form of racing and win for more than 30 years, just like his dad who, as well as winning at the Isle of Man, was also a four-time world champion in the 80s.

The word ‘legend’ often gets used to describe racers, but in Rutter’s case – both senior and junior – it is entirely appropriate.

The 2022 TT was going steadily for Rutter at the time of the lap. His first lap on the Bathams Racing BMW M1000RR on the first day of practice was 122mph after effectively three years away. He reported that as far as course knowledge went, there were no issues. The same couldn’t be said for his eyes’ and brain’s ability to process the sheer speed of movement. His first laps were tense, he was holding on too tight, and struggled to plan ahead; but as the laps ticked off he relaxed, his brain adapted and the speeds increased to a best of 128mph average, and an ideal lap of 131mph if all his best sectors from different laps were put together. He recorded an 11th place finish in the Superbike race, just 0.5sec behind 10th place on a Superstock spec bike complete with treaded tyres front and rear, and a 5th place finish in the Supertwins race on a Paton. The Superstock race was disappointing for him with ‘only’ a 15th place finish on a bike that just wasn’t fast enough, so all in all, in terms of his physical and mental state, when the time came to do a lap on the KTM, he was probably in the best shape… but not until he had a sleep – his usual pre-TT practice/race routine.

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Such is Rutter’s laid-back approach to racing, the very first time he sat on the KTM was about 10-15 seconds before he was in top gear barrelling down the fearsome Bray Hill on it. His only remarks before snapping his visor shut came after looking skyward at the fast-moving clouds, saying: “It’s gonna be really windy out there, especially over the Mountain.”

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