Evergreen Michael Rutter still aiming for Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix glory ... at 45
The Blade makes his annual pilgrimage to his favourite race and circuit as he makes another attempt at win number nine in Macau
Michael Rutter can’t yet bring himself to image what life might be like without his annual trip to Macau.
Ever year bar once since 1994 the British rider has treated the enclave like an annual home away from home and boy has the place treated Rutter well in return.
A record eight wins in the Suncity Group Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix. A record 17 podium finishes – and the end of this fantastic relationship is not yet in site, a notion franked by Rutter’s second place last year behind Peter Hickman.
As is his wont, though, Rutter was on Wednesday playing down his chances as preparations for this year’s 51st edition of the big race move into top gear. The race will be held on Saturday.
“I’m 45 years old, I shouldn’t be doing this, really,” said Rutter, after taking part in a kick around and penalty shootout with local kids.
Take that statement at face value because Rutter has once again been cocking his snoot at father time across this racing season, winning at the North West 200 and the Isle of Man TT in 2017 and holding the kind of form that will no doubt at some stage across the weekend put him in with a chance of stopping SMT Racing/Bathams by MGM Macau teammate Hickman as he charges towards a third straight title of his own.
“We’ve got a good little team together, we take things serious when we have to,” said Rutter. “We took third in the [Pirelli National] Superstock 1000 Championship which I’m a well happy with. So we had some good rides, good wins and podiums when we didn’t. So we’ve been really busy and I’ve enjoyed it but coming back here is something else altogether. I built myself around it and I just love coming out here.”
Rutter and his BMW were looming as possible winners last year around the Guia circuit until Hickman’s steely nerve – and better tyres – saw him forced to lock down second behind his teammate and in front of a perennial unlucky Martin Jessopp (Rider Motorcycles BMW).
Those three Britons again look red hot chances to fill the podium – sentimental fans will no doubt be willing Jessopp over the line after three second-placings and five many podiums in total over the past six editions of the race.
But there’s also the matter of a fired-up Glenn Irwin (Tak Chun Racing by PBM/Penz13) to consider. The Ducati ace was in the race for a long way last year – his three-way battle early with Rutter and Jessopp a thrilling affair – before Irwin’s chances were cruelled by fuel problems that forced him to quit early.
“It’s just so competitive now days,” said Rutter. “To get a podium this year will be very difficult. Peter is flying and has good chance of winning. Glenn Irwin was great last year and he was a bit unlucky while Martin Jessopp can say that for a few of his races around here. There’s about seven right in the mix. It’s been a tough season.”
But as he showed – in flashes – when out among the kids as he- kicked the ball around on Wednesday, there’s something about the air here in Macau that helps Rutter defy time – and the limits he puts on his own expectations.
“You walk down the paddock and you always hope there’s another one coming,” said Rutter. “I’m lucky enough to get eight as I never really thought I’d ever get one. I’ll need a little bit of luck on my side to win it but if we can get up on that podium that will feel like winning the race anyway.”