IAN HUTCHINSON returned to the track at Cadwell Park yesterday for the first time since breaking his leg at Silverstone last year.
The eight-time Isle of Man TT winner rode a Swan Yamaha R1 in Superstock trim using both treaded and slick tyres, and a specially-constructed gear-shift system which allowed the Bingley man to change with his right leg.
The system, built by SMR Performance, uses a shaft from the right side of the bike which goes through the swingarm pivot and connects to a knuckle which then joins the left-mounted quickshifter as usual. Hutchinson had no problem with it but had the left-mounted rear brake disconnected while he waits for a thumb-brake to be installed.
“I was so excited last night," said Hutchinson, "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.
“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.
“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.”
SMR team owner Shaun Muir added: “It’s great for Ian to be able to finally get back on a bike again after all this time. The team are 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.”