Bridgnorth's Michael Rutter still revved up after mixed fortunes
Bridgnorth's Michael Rutter hopes to be involved in all forms of motorbike racing next year after a season of successes on the roads with podium finishes, and disappointment on superbikes.
But the 42-year-old claimed he is happy to wait for a competitive team to come forward before he returns to the circuits – or he may sit out the BSB season.
Rutter proved in 2014 he is still one of the best riders about after battling with and beating some the best up-and-coming road racers.
Podium finishes at the North West 200 in Northern Ireland and the Macau GP in China came either side another solid two weeks at the Isle of Man TT.
His British Superbike campaign was once again a disappointment because despite having a competitive bike a mixture of bad luck and a fall out with the team owner meant his season finished three races early.
The Bridgnorth-based rider hopes to be back in all forms of motorbike racing next year but admits he will not be leaping to return to BSB action.
Instead he hopes to bide his time and wait for a competitive team to come forward, otherwise the racer – who has more BSB starts than any other rider in the history of the competition – will be will be happy to sit next season out.
"We started the BSB season with a new BMW, which was a brilliant bike," he said.
"We struggled to get the parts early on and we didn't even have any front wheels until the first round so we did hardly any testing. It meant we were constantly playing catch up.
"We also found there were massive problems using the same teams for the BSB and roads because it meant for stint of about five months there was no time to work on either side of the bike.
"Usually when you're on the roads the team looking at the BSB will have time to sort things out, and vice-versa, but this season we couldn't do anything because there was racing every week.
"It's certainly something I won't be doing again. The IWR Racing team just didn't have the time to do both the roads and the BSB."
Rutter put the poor season behind him and has already turned down several offers to compete in 2015 to wait for the right set-up.
"Unless something really competitive comes about I won't be racing," he said.
"I still want to race next year but I've spoken with my sponsors, Bathams beer, who have agreed to back me again but we both want the right package.
"The last couple of seasons have been hard work. I'm also 42 now so that does go against you, especially when you're competition against 19 and 20-year-olds.
"But racing is a funny business and at any point someone could have an accident or get sacked from their team so we've got plenty of time before we decide to do anything."
The road racing season was another success for Rutter, who said he would happily just ride superstock machines – road bikes that are raced with little or no modifications – if he was unable to find a team for next year.
He came agonisingly close to picking up his 14th win at the North West 200, which signalled the start of his road racing season, and was keen to come back for more.
He also climbed aboard a 600cc supersport machine for the first time in six years, joining Gary Johnson at Triumph, although that relationship was also cursed with a bit of bad luck.
"We did brilliantly at the North West and I should have won one of the races but it was red flagged because of Simon Andrews' fatal crash," he said.
"But to come away with two second and two fourth-place finishes was a good return.
"The superstock bikes are pretty much the same as everyone else's, so we always had a good chance on them.
"But Michael Dunlop's superbike was so much quicker than anyone else's – I think he won by something like 45 seconds.
"We're hoping to return again next year with BMW and Kawasaki. I've also got a meeting with Triumph, so we'll see how that goes.
"I was leading on the Triumph at the North West but then the coil switch broke and the bike came to a standstill. We got it going a few times but highest we finished was sixth.
"We were looking good for TT but then we had another problem so it was bit disappointing."
On board the bigger 1,000cc machines Rutter once again enjoyed four of top 10 finishes at the TT – including
A ninth the Senior TT – clocking a lap averaging 130.284mph around the 37.73 mile course on his BMW superbike.
"The BMW just had a standard engine so I was pleased with that lap but the one massive difference I've noticed on the roads now is I cannot ride a bike flat out if I know something's wrong.
"In the past I'd just jump on and think I'm either going to crash or I'm going to win, but I don't anymore, which I suppose saves the teams a lot of money on broken bikes.
"But when you're on it you can still put in flying laps that you're really enjoying. It's all about confidence."
Rutter, a three-time TT Zero winner, had to miss out on the one lap event on-board his usual MotoCzysz electric bike this due to his team owner's ill health.
"It was a shame I couldn't do the electric bikes because I think we could've given the winner, John McGuinness, a run for his money again, but he might be coming back next year so you never know," he said.
Rutter also made his debut at the Classic TT races on board a Seeley a G50 Matchless. He was leading by 12 seconds after the first lap until his bike broke down.
"I definitely hope to come back again next year because it was a lot of fun," he said. "When you're used to riding at 190mph plus it is a bit different to be on a bike that reaches 140mph to 150mph, but it can be just as dangerous because you've got to keep the speed up going into corners. With today's superbikes it's just a question of hanging on."
The season finale again took the racing to the street circuit at Macau where Rutter was hoping to add to his record tally of eight wins on board a Milwaukee Yamaha R1. It was looking good too until rival Stuart Easton nicked pole position on the final qualifying lap and then led from the start to see Rutter scrap it out with two other riders to hold on for a second-place finish.
"We only brought one set of tyres with us, which unfortunately ended up being the wrong ones because every time we went round a corner the traction control would kick in and wheel would start spinning," said Rutter. "I was disappointed not to be challenging Stuart but he's a quality rider. It was good to battle for second though because there was some proper racing going on there and it was great to get another podium."
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