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North West 200: Hutchinson determined to leave his injury woe in the past



Teaming up: Ian Hutchinson and Clive Padgett will be hoping to make a statement at the North West 200

Teaming up: Ian Hutchinson and Clive Padgett will be hoping to make a statement at the North West 200

Teaming up: Ian Hutchinson and Clive Padgett will be hoping to make a statement at the North West 200

They say a week is a long time in politics, and so it is in motorcycle racing if you are Ian Hutchinson.

Up until last week, Hutchy was a doubtful starter for the Vauxhall International North West 200. And now, with practice commencing today, he will compete on his official Honda Fireblade in the Superbike and Superstock classes.

And for good measure, he will be reunited with Padgetts Honda — for whom he won a record five solo TTs in one week in 2010 — for the Supersport races.

Hutchinson, who actually piloted his own helicopter into the Triangle yesterday evening, had also hoped to race a KMR Kawasaki for Ryan Farquhar in the Supertwin races, but it is understood Honda vetoed this particular plan.

Hutchinson explained: “Originally I had planned to ride with Honda Racing in all three classes, but because I didn’t know until last week that I would be able to race, those plans changed.

“Clive’s (Padgett) circumstances also changed with Bruce Anstey not riding this year, so we were able to get the deal sorted.”

Anstey, who is locked in a battle with cancer, has given his blessing to Hutchy riding his bike.

Padgett said: “I rang Bruce and asked him if it was okay with Ian riding the bike and he had no problem with it at all.”  

Following his crash during the Senior TT almost a year ago in which he re-broke the same leg he had broken at Silverstone in 2010, determination, perseverance and a dogged single mindedness by 38-year-old Hutchinson has seen him overcome well over 30 operations on his leg to get to this point, after he had an external fixator removed from his leg two weeks ago.

After passing a medical, he was straight onto his Honda, racing in a Mallory Park clubman’s event. He took two wins and a second place before a test at Cadwell Park, and now he is set for his first time back on the roads at the Triangle today for practice.

“It will be steady, but it will tell me where I am at with everything,” Hutchy said.

“I have no specific goals for the North West, but eventually I want to be back winning races, but at the moment I don’t know how soon that will come.

“I haven’t walked for almost 11 months, so I need to try and keep progressing in small steps. I did about 190 laps over three days at Mallory and then 49 laps at Cadwell. The leg feels good and I felt comfortable on the bikes, riding the Superstock bike and then the Superbike for the rest of the test and racing.”

Many a lesser mortal could not contemplate what Hutchy has gone through since 2010 and he must be commended for his efforts.

Of course, the opposition here at the Triangle is powerful and includes his Honda Racing team-mate Lee Johnston, who will also pilot a Padgetts Honda in Supersport, and Conor Cummins, who is Padgetts Honda-mounted in all three major classes.

There will be a lot of focus on the all-time wins record holder Alastair Seeley, who has stood on the top step of the podium an incredible 21 times, alongside Michael Dunlop and Dan Kneen, with all three competing under the Tyco BMW banner in Superbike.

It will be intriguing to see how this pans out — will they gel, share data, even speak to one another? Or will it be every man for themselves between the three potential winners?

And the first-class entry doesn’t end there, with world-class road racers Glenn Irwin, Peter Hickman, Michael Rutter, William Dunlop, Dean Harrison and Gary Johnson all set to compete, while notable runners hoping to break into the winner’s circle include James Hillier, Adam McLean, James Cowton, Derek McGee, Sam West, Maria Costello MBE, Michael Sweeney and Joey Thompson.

The most notable newcomer this year would appear to be Davey Todd riding under the Cookstown BE banner of John Burrows. He has been carving a niche in Irish national road races and will be looking to transfer that form to the international scene.

The international road racing season swings into action this morning and by the afternoon we will have the first glimpses into who has set the early fastest laps, who still has to put in qualifying laps and who the dark horses are.

Irwin, Hickman, Seeley and Rutter have all been performing admirably on the British scene, with Irwin on the podium in the British Superbike Championship.

And Rutter and Seeley, with 35 North West 200 wins between them, are battling in the ultra-competitive Superstock 1000 Championship.

Harrison, William Dunlop, Kneen and Cummins have also been sharpening their skills on the British scene while Kneen, the Dunlops, McLean, McGee and many others have been taking in the early Irish short circuits and road races, so those lining the 8.9-mile Triangle circuit are in for a treat at the North West 200 from today until Saturday not only on track, but off track as well with all the Race Week events.

Race schedule

Thursday - 5.00-9.00pm: Roads closed for racing.

Race 1: Supersport Race 1 - 6 laps

Race 2: Superstock Race 1 - 6 laps

Race 3: Supertwin Race 1 - 4 laps

Saturday - 9:15am to 7.00pm: Roads closed for racing

Race 1: Supersport Race 1 - 6 laps

Race 2: Superbike Race 1 - 7 laps

Race 3: Supertwin Race 1 - 4 laps

Race 4: Superstock Race 2 - 6 laps

Race 5: Superbike Race 2 - 7 laps

Traffic advice

Road closures on circuit roads

Today - between 9.15am and 3pm.

Thursday - between 9.15am and 3.00pm and a further road closure to facilitate racing from 5.00pm to 9.00pm.

Saturday - the circuit roads will close from 9.15am to 7.00pm.

Motorists attending the practice sessions and race events are urged to arrive in good time and to make full use of official car parks. Please do not park where your vehicle will cause an obstruction to public or private entrances, and in particular, to designated ambulance routes that are signposted, and which must be kept clear at all times.

 Motorists should expect delays on all roads leading to and from the circuit and should make appropriate allowances in order to complete their journey safely.

Belfast Telegraph