He might have a reputation inside the paddock as being something of a 'rain master', but pole-sitter Michael Rutter has confessed that he has his fingers crossed for a dry race when the 2011 North West 200 revs into life on Saturday.
Lapping at an average speed of just over 121mph around the 8.97-mile circuit, Rutter led Riders Bathams Ducati team-mate Martin Jessopp to a one-two in the delayed, wind-battered Superbike class qualifying session on Thursday, the pair separated by just under six tenths of a second after having placed respectively second and third in Tuesday's opening session.
Rutter shaved almost six seconds off his Tuesday best in second qualifying, with Jessopp – fastest through the speed trap, as his team-mate had been two days earlier, at a jaw-dropping 198mph – improving by nigh-on ten seconds to make it a commanding Riders Bathams Ducati one-two. Now, the former just wants it to stay dry.
“I'm really happy and can't really ask any more,” conceded 'The Blade' of his blistering effort to seize pole position aboard his 1198 Ducati. “The bike performed really well; we had a couple of technical issues towards the end of session, but the team worked hard to allow me to get out one lap at a time.
“Hopefully it will be dry on Saturday. I know my reputation is to ride well in the rain, but riding fast on wet roads like these is something you can only really master after a lot of practice. It is very different from a wet short circuit; if it's raining, one of the local guys may have the edge.”
“I was really happy with the bike,” echoed Jessopp, who nonetheless found himself grappling with a faulty quick-shifter and hauled himself impressively up the order from way down in 23rd at one stage to secure P2 on his very last attempt. “We got out first so I had a clear road ahead of me, I got my head down and gave it my best.
“When I pitted, the team made a few changes and I was really happy to get my final flying lap. On that final lap, I did make a tiny error – it's really hard not to on a circuit like this – so potentially, I could have been even quicker. The weather forecast is really bad for Saturday, though, so no-one really knows what will happen on the day.
“I would like to wish Stuart Easton a speedy recovery after his accident; he's a good friend of mine, so I hope to see him back on the track soon.”