Macau Grand Prix winner Ian Hutchinson doesn’t expect to have any fitness concerns when the ‘Bingley Bullet’ lines up on the grid at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in May.
Hutchinson he been through the mire in his battle to recover from a career-threatening leg injury sustained in a British Supersport crash at Silverstone at the end of his record-breaking season 2010.
The 34-year-old has undergone a staggering 29 operations on the mangled limb and endured hundreds of hours of physiotherapy in his bid to recapture the stunning form that fired him into the Isle of Man TT history books with five solo victories in a week.
He competed at the North West 200 and TT in 2012 on Shaun Muir’s Swan Yamaha machines after a successful race return at the Macau Grand Prix in November 2011.
However, it was clear that ‘Hutchy’ wasn’t at his brilliant best and another lengthy period on the sidelines followed as he underwent further surgery on his leg.
The eight-time TT winner made his latest racing comeback in Macau at the end of last season and secured an emotional victory on the Milwaukee Yamaha over circuit specialist Michael Rutter, raising expectations that Hutchinson will be a major contender at the international meetings in 2014 on Muir’s YZF-R1 Yamaha machines.
During a visit to the North West 200 circuit last week, Hutchinson said he expected to be fully fit for the beginning of the new campaign.
“My leg is getting stronger every day now and is a lot better than it was in Macau,” said Hutchinson. “I’m training hard and I will be fully fit come the start of the season.
“I’m really looking forward to coming back to the North West. I haven’t been here since I raced the Swan Yamaha in 2012 before I began the second round of treatment on my leg but everything is sorted now and I’m ready to race.
“I’ve had a good look around and there doesn’t seem to be much that has changed since I was here in 2012,” added Hutchinson, whose last race win at the event came in 2010 in the second Supersport race on Clive Padgett’s Honda.
“The North West is the only place where we race at over 200mph and I want to be out there doing that again in 2014.”
Hutchinson - who will compete in the MCE British Superbike Championship this season in the newly-formed FFX Yamaha team - will line up in the Superbike and Supersport races at the North West on the Milwaukee Yamaha machines alongside team-mate Josh Brookes.
His participation at the TT, though, hangs in the balance after Milwaukee withdrew its backing of Muir’s team for the event following the introduction of new rules governing the use of electronics systems, although Hutchinson could yet still return to the scene of his unparalleled five-timer in June.
North West 200 Event Director, Mervyn Whyte MBE, said ‘Hutchy’ was guaranteed a warm welcome at the north coast showpiece in May.
“I was in China to see Ian win the Macau Grand Prix last year,” he said. “He can be sure of a great welcome from the Irish fans who really appreciate all that he has come through to get back on to the grid.”