Author: Oli Rushby Pics: Pacemaker Press Posted: 13 Jan 2016
Eleven-time Isle of Man TT winner Ian Hutchinson believes he’s in the strongest position yet ahead as he heads into the 2016 season with the Tyco BMW team.
In an exclusive interview with Bike Social, the Bingley rider spoke about his remarkable return to form in 2015, winning three out of five TT races after being sidelined for three years with life changing injuries.
Hutchinson broke his left leg in a horrific crash during a British Supersport race at Silverstone just weeks after making history by taking five victories in a week at the 2010 TT.
A number of set-backs, including re-breaking the leg in 2012 in rehearsal for an event at the MCN London Motorcycle Show, meant the now 36-year-old missed what he considers to be three years of racing.
Until recently he had remained quiet about the true extent of his suffering which saw him undergo 30 operations and lose the fibula in his left leg.
He was initially told he’d never walk again but through sheer determination, hard work and and alterations to his machines including a right-footed gearshift and thumb brake, he managed to return to the top step at last year’s TT.
“I kept most of it quiet because I’d signed a deal to ride with a team in 2011 presuming I’d be ready for it but there was obviously no chance I was going to be,” Hutchinson confessed. “I couldn’t let them know that, so I played down most of it and kept it within my family and friends.
“Most people didn’t know what I’d gone through but there was a long spell of horrible days and nights. I was told I was going to lose my leg.
“I was a late starter in bike racing anyway, I didn’t race competitively until I was 21 so by the time I started achieving success I was a long way behind a lot of my rivals, so for it all to go away and lose four years, especially on the Isle of Man, it was heart breaking. I missed out on what I see as 20 potential TT wins. It was good to get back but I had a lot to make up. Everything I’ve been through was to see the day where I’d win on the Island again.” When you are injured you become scared of a motorbike
Hutchinson first returned to racing in 2012 with Swan Yamaha and despite a handful of courageous top ten results at the TT he knew he still had a long way to go. Taking the decision to go under the knife for the 30th and final time, he agreed to sit out the 2013 season with long-term recovery his goal.
Returning earlier than planned, he headed to Macau with the Milwaukee Yamaha squad where he stunned the motorcycle racing world by taking pole position and storming to a sensational race victory.
“It was tough coming back,” he continued. “You always think ‘it’ll never happen to me’ and then when it does you think ‘it’ll never happen again’! It all turns into a blur. It seems like it was such a long time, I remember when it happened I thought I’d just be injured for three months but I was injured for three years. If I had known I would be out for three years I probably wouldn’t have been able to get through it, but I broke it down and didn't think about how long it'd take.
“I was trying to train really early on, within six months of the crash, and I really shouldn’t have been. I was always working and training to make the whole process as quick as possible. No matter how long it took, you could not have got back faster than I did and that’s what made it all worthwhile.”
Despite the severity of his injuries and the amount of time it took him to recover, Hutchinson says he not once considered retiring.
“When you have an injury you are quite scared of a motorbike,” he explained. “You don’t want to go near one again but it’s a bit like a hangover, when you’re never going to drink again but when the hangover is gone you’re straight back out drinking.
“The hardest bit was when I was told I wouldn’t get the lift back on my left foot. No matter what state my leg was in, every time I saw the surgeon I just asked him about getting the lift back in my foot so I could change gear on a bike. He eventually said to me ‘Why can’t you just change gear with your right foot?’. This was coming from someone who is obviously very good at being a surgeon but not so good at racing a motorbike, so I told him he had no idea what it’d be like to try and change gear with your right foot! When it sunk in and I realised it was my only option I began to look into it and that was probably the only time I thought I might not win again.”
HUTCHINSON AWARDED PRESTIGIOUS RAC PRIZE
Hutchinson was this week awarded the Royal Automobile Club’s iconic Torrens Trophy for British motorcyclists who have gone above and beyond.
Only awarded when a committee see it fit to do so, the Torrens Trophy has been presented to just nine victors in its 36-year history but Hutchinson fought off a raft of competition after an astonishing year for British motorcycling in 2015.
Hutchinson’s return to the top step after such a courageous battle saw him beat Britain’s first Grand Prix World Champion in 38 years (Danny Kent) to the accolade with testimonials from the likes of Murray Walker, John Surtees and James Toseland.
Adding to Hutchinson’s remarkable return to the top step in the Supersport category was that his deal with Keith Flint’s Traction Control Team only came together a week before last year's TT after an agreement to ride MV Agusta machinery fell through. He’ll remain aboard TTC’s Yamaha R6 for the upcoming season while switching to Tyco BMW for the 1000cc classes.
“I had to stay with Team Traction Control for the 600 class this year after I begged them to let me ride it a week before the TT last year,” he said. “I was meant to be riding an MV, which would have been nice for the whole MV name and brand at the TT but in the end it didn’t come together. At the last minute Grant Bunting [TTC Team Manager] pulled a team together and Keith Flint came on board and after three laps of practice we won both races!
“The BMW thing was a bit of a no brainer really. The brand has come on massively in racing. I don’t think I could be in a stronger position for this year than I am with the BMW. There’s no other bike I would choose if I could have anything out there."
He added: “I see the passion in Hector and Phillip [Neill] too. Hector was blown away in the winners’ enclosure this year and none of his bikes were in there! He’d come to see me because he was so impressed with what I’d done. As soon as I started talking to the team I remembered that straight away, I knew what he’d thought of my win this year and things like that stand out for me and that’ll make it special for me to try and do it for them."
Now he’s back to winning ways Hutchinson has no plans to stop. Making reference to greats such as Joey Dunlop and John McGuinness, he says he hopes he’s a few more years left in him yet.
“The TT is one and its own. You just have to look back and when people have been successful they normally continue doing so for a long time. Bruce Anstey is showing that, Joey showed that, John is showing that. Who knows? Somebody could come along that’s just amazing but I think the TT is one of those places where so many things need to be right. Nobody is going to come along and win five races every year for the next ten years so I hope I’ll still be winning for a while.”