Isle of Man TT: Miracle man Ian Hutchinson so happy to makes it a perfect 10
It was hard to judge who had the bigger smile on the Isle of Man at the end of a spell-binding Superstock race.
Miracle man Ian Hutchinson was at it again as the rider who almost lost his life in a horror smash five years ago made it a brace of wins at this year's TT, adding the RL360 Superstock race to the Supersport one he had won on Monday evening.
It took the Englishman to 10 wins on the island, the PBM Kawasaki rider over-hauling early leader Michael Dunlop (MD Racing BMW) to put his Paul Bird Motorsport ZX10R Kawasaki on the top step.
But his grin was almost surpassed by that of the man who came home in third spot, Fermanagh's Lee Johnston, who took his first TT podium, joining the 130mph club in the process, with a best effort of 130.851mph on the fourth and final lap on board his East Coast Racing BMW.
"It was a little bit special, especially up here beside these two guys," said a beaming Johnston.
"I've been coming here for a few years and riding around so it's nice when you see Paul Phillips (TT Motorsport Manager) direct you into the winner's enclosure.
"I'm over the moon, especially after finishing fourth in the Supersport."
Hutchinson's victory draws the 35-year-old alongside the likes of Giacomo Agostini and Sunday's TT Superbike winner Bruce Anstey on 10 career wins at the famous Manx event, but the Bingley man said: "Keep counting, I'm not done yet.
"I had to pay Paul Bird back today as he's done so much for me," said Hutchinson, who took the lead on lap three after an impeccable pit stop and tyre change, which allowed him to push on and take a convincing win over Dunlop.
But his race wasn't without drama, as he explained: "While I've been away from the sharp end this past four or five years Michael has been the man to beat, so this win makes it even more special but I nearly ran out of fuel.
"I was tucked in behind (John) McGuinness on the Mountain and he was waving me past but I had to pull alongside and point at the tank as riding behind him was saving a bit of fuel," said Hutchinson trying to see the funny side.
"Every time I tipped it into a turn it was cutting out and when I tipped into Signpost it cut out again and I almost tucked the front and was on the footpath," said Hutchinson, who deserves all the good fortune this TT can provide after 30 operations over a three year period to save the left leg he almost lost in a crash at Silverstone back in 2010.
Michael Dunlop, who sacrificed a Superstock practice lap yesterday to help gather up his brother William following a 100mph spill for the Tyco BMW rider at Laurel Bank, was the early TT Superstock race leader.
A standing start effort just outside the lap record at 130.932mph was proof enough that the 26-year-old meant business on his MD Racing BMW, but Hutchinson and Guy Martin hadn't read the script. Both followed Dunlop across the line at the end of lap one with efforts of 130.730mph and 130.304mph respectively.
Hutchinson was just 1.6 seconds down on Dunlop with Martin a further 3.3 adrift and while the Lincolnshire man's tales of TT woe would continue - eventually finishing seventh after a botched pit-stop - Hutchinson had no similar misfortune.
At the end of lap two, Dunlop held on to his slender advantage over Hutchinson with both men again recording 130mph laps, but by the time the action was nine miles into lap three at Glen Helen, the Hutchy had edged in front.
A quality pit stop and a cunning plan to add new rubber for the final 75 miles, gave the PBM Kawasaki rider the added advantage. And at the end of four laps, his victory was a convincing 17 seconds at the chequered flag.
Dunlop may have been battered and bruised following his final lap TT Superbike crash at the Nook, but he had no answer to Hutchinson, who also shattered the previous TT Superstock race record by some 32 seconds.
Dunlop said: "I tried to push and dug deep but we lost time in the pits and at the end my body couldn't take much more."
The fight for third was even more exciting, James Hillier looking odds on to take his second podium of TT 2015 on the Quattro Plant Muc Off Kawasaki, after Martin's demise due to a faulty battery on his BMW.
The Bournemouth lad had what should have been a comfortable 4.7 second advantage with just the Mountain to negotiate on the final lap, but Johnston had other ideas, as he explained.
"I was expecting a final board at the Gooseneck on the last lap, but my dad was that excited he was waving his fist at me and I was craning my neck to try and see what he had on the board, which was lying against the bank," laughed the easy going Ulsterman.
"I've never ever got my knee down on that last section, but I was scratching the whole way at the end," said Johnston, who took the final podium spot away from Hillier by just under 3/10ths of a second.
Today: 10.45am TT Zero Challenge (1 lap); 12.00noon TT Supersport Race 2 (4 laps); 2.15pm TT Sidecar Race 2 (3 laps)