A forced retirement in the first race at Oulton Park wasn't the best way to start the day, but a hard fought sixth place in the second Superbike outing was enough to keep Michael Rutter's championship hopes alive after the shock news that Team Kawasaki would not be contesting the Oulton Park round.

Rutter chose not to sit on the sidelines, but to try and defend his fourth place in the championship by riding a Kawasaki ZX-7RR for leading privateer team, Hawk Racing. With only a day to prepare the Hawk Racing bike, Rutter knew it was going to be a difficult weekend at the Cheshire circuit.

"It was never going to be easy jumping from a full factory ride to a privateer bike, but both my mechanics and the Hawk Racing team have worked extremely hard to get the bike set-up in time for this weekend," said Rutter. "However, regardless of the difficulties, I was determined to do everything I could to defend my position in the championship and I can't thank Stuart Hicken, Hawk Racing and the team's sponsors enough for allowing me to ride their bike this weekend."

Having qualified on the second row of the grid, as highest placed privateer, Rutter was forced to withdraw from the first race when the bike started to misfire after just three laps. Despite frenzied activity in pit lane, the cause of the problem couldn't be identified and the former Grand Prix rider was left with no option but to park the bike up and watch the rest of the race from the pit wall.

"I was absolutely gutted when the bike started misfiring," commented Rutter, who lives virtually next door to the Hawk Racing workshops in Kirkby Mallory. "I pulled into pit lane and the mechanics had a look at the bike before sending me back out, but it was still misfiring and I had no other choice but to retire. Having wanted to do well in the race, for both Hawk Racing and myself, a forced retirement was a real disappointment."

The mechanics stripped the bike during the interval in an attempt to trace the cause of the misfire but, with the start of race two looming closer, things weren't looking too hopeful in the Hawk Racing pit. Once again it was Hawk team owner, Stuart Hicken, who came to the rescue. With regular rider Mark Burr nursing a dislocated shoulder following a qualifying crash,
Hicken offered Rutter the use of the Darlington rider's bike for the second race.

The spare bike was wheeled onto pit lane and Rutter started the sighting lap on the bike he'd ridden in race one. As the West Midlander came round to complete the lap, it was obvious that the mysterious misfire had made a return. Pulling into the pits, Rutter decided to start the race on the spare bike; a bike he hadn't even sat on, never mind ridden, all weekend.

A flying start saw Rutter slot into fourth place at the first corner, but the lack of factory horsepower was to take its toll. Time made up on the brakes in the corners was lost as the factory bikes used their superior power to pull away on the straights, forcing Rutter to ride for sixth place in the race and ten vital championship points.

"I'd have preferred not to have had to use the spare bike in the second race, as I hadn't ridden it at all over the course of the weekend," said the 27-year-old former TT winner. "But I didn't have a choice, so I just decided to get my head down and crack on. I'd have liked to have given the riders battling for fourth place a bit more of a run for their money, but I'm happy enough with sixth place and the ten points that go with it. Once again, I'd like to say a big thank you to everyone at Hawk Racing for giving me the chance to race this weekend. Without them I'd be languishing a lot further down the championship table."

Rutter's decision to ride as a privateer proved to have been a good one as the championship points were totted up after race two. The West Midlander had dropped one place in the championship to fifth, but would have been eighth if he hadn't ridden at Oulton Park.

 

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