Ian Hutchinson returned to a race track for the first time in 12 months, riding a Swan Yamaha R1 at Cadwell Park last week. The 32 year old has been sidelined ever since an accident during a British Supersport race at Silverstone left him with a compound fracture of the tibia and fibula in his left leg, and couldn't contain his excitement before jumping on the bike.
“I was so excited last night, I couldn’t sleep and I was watching the footage from Le Mans at gone midnight. Being on the track felt surprisingly good to be honest. It’s a bit strange but after a couple of laps you’re soon back into it.”
“It wasn’t like I expected to be missing apexes or anything like that and you don’t forget what you’ve spent all that time learning. Obviously, I’m not pushing hard and getting on the throttle early but I’ve got some good lines and really enjoying being back out there.”
The Yamaha R1 incorporated a specially constructed gear-shift system, built by SMR Performance, which allowed the Bingley man to swap cogs with his right leg. Hutchinson didn't have any problems with it but had the left-mounted rear brake disconnected while he waits for a thumb-brake to be installed.
“We’re using the Superstock bike because it is closer to a roadbike and easier to ride than a full-blown Supersport race bike, you don’t really have to chase it around the track as much. There’s a lot more torque to go a little slower and find my way back into riding really.”
“The gearbox is quite easy actually, it’s still in race-shift and I’ve not got it wrong yet but I did go for the back brake over the mountain but then remembered it isn’t there. I need to get a thumb brake on it as I am used to that on a Superbike, which will stop me thinking about it.”
Hutchinson hopes that another operation will allow him to step up his recovery ahead of November's Macau Grand Prix.
“My leg feels really good, I’ve got another operation on it later this week to try and release some scar tissue to get my ankle working again. I’m still having physio but it’s looking good for Macau in November. We will swap the gearshift back if the operation is a success but I’m not going to stop racing because I have to use the right side to change gears.”
Swan Yamaha team owner Shaun Muir hopes that the test has signalled the rebirth of Hutchinson's career and a full-time return to racing next year.
“It’s great for Ian to be able to finally get back on a bike again after all this time. The team is over the moon with the progress he has made and he was very comfortable on the R1 today. It good for us all to see a way forward now and we can look at 2012 with renewed confidence.”
Paul Phillips, TT and Motorsport Manager at the Isle of Man Government, echoes those sentiments and hopes to see Hutchinson back at the TT after missing this year's event.
“Everyone on the Isle of Man is delighted for Ian. He has shown incredible strength of character to put himself in a position to be competing again in such a short space of time and we look forward to seeing him back at the TT Races in 2012.”