Aiming past the rocket
It's a record Michael Rutter has been chasing for two years but it remains as elusive as ever. This time, Rutter thinks he can finally crack it as he attempts to break one of motorcycling's most amazing records when he lines up in next weekend's Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix.
Rutter, who has matched 'Rocket' Ron Haslam's record of six wins in Macau, returns for another crack at win number seven.
The 35-year-old Englishman will be well equipped to finally ride into the record books as the most successful rider ever at the Guia circuit if all goes according to plan on Saturday.
'I'll try, you know. It would be nice to beat that record. It would be fantastic. It's going to be hard because there will be a lot of good riders out there as well,' said Rutter, who will be on board a 1200cc Ducati for Discover Ireland North West 200.
Rutter first won in Macau in 1998 and since then has had a steady stream of victories, winning again in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005. But there has been no seventh heaven for 'The Blade'.
'Every race is just as important, but Macau is really something special. We're looking at Macau and hopefully we can do something there,' he said.
The Wordsley-born Rutter, who has won 26 British Superbike Championship races, finished second in 2006 in Macau and last year, despite starting from pole, finished down in 11th place after being forced down the slip road three laps from the chequered flag.
Despite last year's setback, Rutter still starts as favourite for the Far East Classic and he is determined to go one better than Haslam, whose record has stood for more than 20 years.
'I've been in Macau every year since 1994, apart from 1999 when I missed it due to business commitments. You can't really appreciate Macau unless you're there,' said Rutter, one of the most successful competitors.
'When I was in Macau in the early years, I was always on factory bikes and had real good teams from the UK behind me. Last year and the year before we were up for a win, but it didn't happen. I was out on my last few laps.
'We tried and I finished 11th. I couldn't brake and went straight out [down the slip road]. It wasn't very good at all. Normally I would get a podium finish but it was poor run last year.'
Rutter will hoping for a change of luck as he battles it out again against the likes of fellow Englishman John McGuinness, the 2001 Macau winner who will be making his 11th appearance in Macau. Rutter also received an unexpected fillip as he won't have to contend with Steve Plater, winner of the last two Macau races, after the Lincolnshire rider decided not to return due to other commitments.
Stuart Easton, the Supersport winner at Macau in 2002, and second runner-up overall in 2004, will return after missing last year's event after breaking his left heel in a test-day incident in France.
Scotsman Steve Allan is also back this year on an AVIVA Kawasaki superbike as the three-time 600cc Supersport class Macau champion and there's also Austrian Thomas Hinterreiter, whose third place last year was his best podium finish in Macau.
However, Rutter is the man they will all have to get past on the tight and twisting 6.2km Guia circuit.
'My Ducati will give me an added edge,' said a confident Rutter. 'It is quite suitable for Macau and it will be a bit more competitive than the bike I rode last year.
'I have a good chance. We have a good team and a good package so hopefully we can win. It would be nice. There are a lot of good people who can also claim the championship, too,' he said.
'John McGuinness won the [Isle of Man] TT several times and Cameron Donald won the TT this year so they will also be gunning for glory. Competition will be hot.'
Rutter finished sixth overall at this year's British Superbike Championships. Just last month, he racked up an incredible 300th start at the championships at the final meeting of the year at Brands Hatch.
'I couldn't believe I had done it. It was a bit of a shock. I can't believe how quick it has gone. If you had told me it was my 100th start, I would have believed you, but not 300th.'
Nothing will give Rutter a bigger buzz than winning in Macau a record seventh time. But if victory continues to elude him, will he be back for more next year?
'Yeah, definitely. I love coming to Macau. This year, we'll try to get a good start and try to keep away from everyone and get a good finish.
'I had pole position last year and I am hoping for the same this year. I'm keeping my fingers cross that I will get a smooth ride,' said Rutter, who will take his customary holiday to Thailand after Macau and 'forget about motorbikes until after Christmas.'
And if he does finally surpasses Haslam's long-standing record how would he celebrate?
'Oh, you'll have to wait and see,' he laughed.
On yer bike
1. Michael Rutter is the son of Tony Rutter, who won seven Isle of Man TT races during the 1970s
2. Rutter jointly holds the most number of wins at the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix with six victories, a feat he shares with 'Rocket' Ron Haslam who completed his haul in 1987
3. Competed at the World 500cc Championship (now MotoGP) in 1999, finishing in 11th position for his best finish.
4. Will be making his 14th visit to Macau having first competed on the Guia circuit in 1994
5. Won 26 races at the British Superbike Championships and completed his 300th race in the series in the final race of the season at Brands Hatch last month.