Bizarrely, the final practice stint of the day for the production-based machines was abruptly halted when an official course car was left parked too close to the exit of the start and finish chicane, causing a safety issue.
The red flags came out but the organisers were left even more red-faced when it seemed the keys to the high-performance vehicle could not be located. Instead, a group of officials attempted to ‘bounce’ the car into a safer position as fans on the grandstand clapped and cheered.
As a result, vital time was lost but the session was eventually restarted and it was stalwart Rutter who clinched provisional pole on the Bathams/SMT BMW, lapping in 4m 24.634s (122.025mph) as he set the fastest overall lap on Tuesday in any class.
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Alastair Seeley was only 0.141s behind on the Tyco BMW (121.960mph) with Fermanagh’s Lee Johnston third fastest on his BMW Superstock machine, only half a second behind Rutter after he lapped at 121.777mph.
Next up was last year’s race winner Ian Hutchinson on the Tyco BMW, while Dean Harrison (Silicone Engineering Kawasaki) and Martin Jessopp on the Riders Motorcycles BMW finalised the top six.
Michael Dunlop was seventh on his MD Racing Suzuki ahead of Smiths BMW rider Peter Hickman and William Dunlop (Temple Golf Club Yamaha).
Austrian rider Horst Saiger rounded out the top ten on his Kawasaki ZX-10R.
Jessopp topped the Supertwin times on his Kawasaki with a lap of 108.913mph, which put him 1.6 seconds ahead of Rutter, who has replaced Hudson Kennaugh on the IEG/KMR Kawasaki.
Ivan Lintin, a double winner in the class in 2016, was third fastest at 107.881mph in front of Lee Johnston, who is also riding for Ryan Farquhar’s KMR team (107.758mph).
Dan Cooper, who was caught up in Farquhar’s crash at the North West a year ago, was fifth quickest followed by James Cowton on the McAdoo Kawasaki and Derek Sheils (Cookstown B.E. Racing Kawasaki).