Twelve-times North West 200 winner Michael Rutter has tonight been confirmed as a definite starter at the event in May.
Rutter's participation at the famous international road race in Northern Ireland had been placed in doubt due to a financial shortfall, but Rutter will now compete in both Superbike and Superstock races at the event for the MSS Bathams Kawasaki team.
The popular Midlands rider will be joined by Steve Martin, who will make his debut at the North West.
Martin is originally from North East England but is currently based in Malaysia, where he competes in the Malaysian Superbike series.
Rutter's participation at the Relentless International North West 200 has been made possible thanks to the backing of Bathams Brewery.
Nick Morgan, MSS Bathams Kawasaki team manager, said: “I've huge affection for the International North West 200 and have been crossing the channel to bring competitors to Ireland's top road race since the early 1990s.
"I'm absolutely thrilled that we've been able to put together a sponsorship package with Bathams, giving Michael the opportunity to compete in both the NW200 and the TT.
“After the challenges of 2011 we're really looking forward to a great race both on Thursday evening and on Saturday, race day.
"I believe this is fantastic news both for Kawasaki and Michael and of course for the North West and Irish road racing. Michael is certainly up for it and I know he has a big following in Ireland.”
Mervyn Whyte, NW200 technical director, said he was thrilled that Rutter and the MSS team would be back in Portstewart this year.
“With 12 wins at the NW200 under his belt Michael has been a true star and would have been sorely missed by fans. After several weeks of negotiation I'm really pleased that we've been able to secure Michael for the NW200 and I can't wait to see him in action,” said Whyte.
The MSS Kawasaki team had a nightmare year at the event in 2011, when Stuart Easton was seriously hurt in a massive crash after clipping the rear of his then team-mate Gary Mason's ZX-10R during practice.