Seventh title for Rutter is bittersweet
The frustrating wait is over with the monkey finally lifting off Michael Rutter's back, as he becomes the first man to win seven Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix races yesterday, ending a six-year win drought.
Rutter, who had been tied with Ron Haslam for the most number of wins since 2005, entered his seventh heaven on the back of a superb ride aboard the Riders Motorcycles Ducati 2100, winning a shortened race comfortably to enter the record books.
'This is just fantastic. Looking back, I guess this will always be the most memorable of my wins because, after all, I have broken Ron Haslam's record. I'm well chuffed,' said Rutter.
However, while savouring his victory, Rutter admitted it was a bitter-sweet ending to his odyssey. It has been an emotional week for the 39-year-old Briton, and the rest of the international biking field invited to Macau, as they are facing an uncertain outlook with the future of this race up in the air.
That is because the man responsible for bringing the riders to Macau, and the main co-ordinator, Mike Trimby, told race organisers that he 'does not wish to be considered for involvement after 2011'. This could see yesterday's race go down as a watershed for more reasons than just Rutter's victory.
Rutter twice mentioned the word 'sad' in his post-race press conference, raising the distinct possibility that the Motorcycle Grand Prix might die at age 45.
'This is a sad ending to Macau,' said Rutter in his victory speech, making special reference to the departure of Trimby, who was present at the media conference. 'The thought that this might be the last bike grand prix makes me very sad.'
The race has a proud tradition. While Haslam dominated in the 1980s, Rutter's six previous wins came in 1998, 2000, then four years on the trot from 2002 to 2005. Steve Plater (2006 and 2007) and Stuart Easton (2008-10) denied him in the past five years. But yesterday, Rutter was untouchable once he grabbed the lead on the fourth lap of the 10-lap race.
Ian Hutchinson, who a year ago was in intensive care and almost had his leg amputated, got off to a flying start. Then it was Martin Jessop's turn to give Rutter's fans a few flutters. Both challengers were quickly conquered - Jessop finished runner-up and Hutchinson third.
Hutchinson said: 'It's been a hard year for me and just to be here, and now on the podium is absolutely fantastic. I was surprised to be leading at the start, but Mike had a superb race.'
Jessop added: 'This is my third time in Macau and I was injured last year. So to finish second is great. I think Mike was toying with us, I have been learning off him for the last two years.'
Rutter paid tribute to his team and the bike for making his journey to a seventh title smooth as silk. He finished the race in 24 minutes and 32.817 seconds, almost five seconds in front of Jessop. It was a huge margin, and at the end of the day, probably one of his easiest wins in Macau.
'I guess I will be on the phone straight away to Haslam,' said Rutter jokingly afterwards.
Trimby's decision to step aside seems irreversible. Yesterday, he said: 'While I am sincerely touched by the statements made by some teams and riders, I do not propose to change my mind and offer my services in the future.'
The Macau organisers have, meanwhile, maintained a stoic silence only saying: 'No comment.'
So unless saner counsel prevails, yesterday could go down as a day when history was made twice - Rutter winning his seventh title and it being the last race in Macau.