Ian Hutchinson has renewed his ties with Clive Padgett’s famous Honda team to compete in the Supersport class at the Vauxhall International North West 200 this week.
The Yorkshire rider, who will make his competitive road racing return in Tueaday’s opening practice sessions on the North Coast following his Senior TT crash in 2017, joins Northern Ireland’s Lee Johnston and Manxman Conor Cummins on the CBR600RR machines.
Hutchinson originally intended to contest the class with the Honda Racing team but he was forced to change his plans after his battle to be fit enough to compete at the North West and TT went down to the wire.
The three-time North West 200 winner, who is riding in the Padgetts livery for the first time since his famous TT five-timer in 2010, said the opportunity arose after New Zealand’s Bruce Anstey was ruled out through illness.
“Originally I had planned to ride with the Honda Racing team in all three races but because I didn’t know until just two weeks ago that I would be able to race those plans changed.
“Clive’s circumstances had also changed with Bruce Anstey not riding this year so we were able to get the deal sorted.
“Tuesday practice will be steady but it will tell me where I am at with everything. I haven’t walked for almost 11 months so I need to try to keep progressing in small steps.”
After his crash last June, the Bingley man had to wear a stabilising cage on his left leg, which was only removed two weeks ago.
Hutchy immediately began testing and raced the Honda Racing Fireblade at Mallory Park over the May Bank Holiday weekend.
“I did 190 laps over three days at Mallory and then 49 laps at Cadwell,” he explained.
“The leg feels good and I felt comfortable on the bikes. I rode the Superstock bike during the first morning at Mallory and then stuck to the Superbike for the rest of the tests and races.”
The 38-year-old says he has not set himself any immediate goals as he makes his comeback this week on the North Coast.
“Eventually I want to be back winning races but at the moment I don’t know how soon that will come.”
Race boss Padgett explained that ‘Flying Kiwi’ Anstey, who is facing a battle with cancer, has given his blessing to Hutchy to compete on his bike.
“I rang Bruce and asked him if he was OK with Ian riding the bike and he had no problem with it at all,” Padgett said.
Cummins will ride in all three classes at the North West with Padgett’s team while Fermanagh man Johnston and Hutchinson spearhead Honda Racing’s challenge in the Superbike and Superstock classes.
Hutchinson had also been hoping to ride a Kawasaki Supertwin for Ryan Farquhar’s KMR team but the deal fell through on Monday.
It is understood Honda vetoed the agreement.
Practice commences on Tuesday from 9.15am with roads due to re-open no later than 3pm.
On Thursday, roads will be closed from the same time during the day for final practice and qualifying.
Roads will then close again on Thursday evening for the first three races from 5pm to 9pm, featuring the first Supersport, Superstock and Supertwins races ahead of Saturday’s big race bill, when roads will close at 9.15am.