Michael Rutter's bid to enter the record books by becoming the first person to win the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix seven times has taken on an added urgency after a shadow was cast over the 45-year-old race yesterday.
Mike Trimby, the man who has brought the international field of riders to Macau for the past 33 years, dropped the bombshell that this would be the last time he would be involved.
'This is my last year,' Trimby said. 'I don't want to go into details as to why I have taken this decision.'
Trimby's contract with Macau Grand Prix organisers has not been extended. For the past three decades, his company has been responsible for co-ordinating the international field of world-class riders, all of whom are invited to take part in the only motorcycle race in this grand prix weekend.
'Yes, this is his last year. We will look at next year's event after the successful running of [today's] race,' a spokeswoman for the organising committee said.
Organisers were tight-lipped but the feeling in the biking fraternity is that, without Trimby, it would be difficult to run a motorcycle race in Macau. 'He will leave a big hole. There are fears this could be the last time the motorcycle grand prix is held,' a person close to the racers said.
Trimby downplayed his importance, saying: 'The graveyard is full of people who thought they were indispensable.'
But his expertise and experience in organising the select band of riders is widely acknowledged as just that - indispensable.
Trimby's yearly pilgrimage to Macau started in 1978 when he saw a small story in a British newspaper asking for riders to compete in the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix.
According to motorcycle journalist Chris Carter, Trimby met up with the late Fred Merrill of the Hong Kong Automobile Association (the HKAA was helping the Macau organisers out) and offered to put together a package of riders on one condition - he be given the chance to race, too. Trimby finished the then 25-lap race in third place. But more importantly, it was the start of a long relationship with Macau, and every year he has put together the overseas bike field.
'I'm not saying no one else can do it. But it won't be easy and right now we can't see anyone else who can put it together,' the insider said.
As if Trimby's imminent farewell wasn't enough of a headache, organisers were given a hard time by Mother Nature, too, with poor weather forcing the cancellation of yesterday's qualifying sessions for the bikes. That has been rescheduled for early this morning with the race to cap today's programme.
It was a frustrating wait for Rutter and company. The Englishman, who is tied with Ron Haslam on six wins, had the fastest lap during Thursday's free practice. But that has been the only chance for the riders to get a feel for the track, with the wet roads making it too dangerous for the bikes.
If it rains today, the race will be postponed until tomorrow when the forecast is for finer weather. Rutter will just hope he will get the chance to race - for it might be the last time he gets the chance to enter the record books.