Milwaukee Yamaha’s Ian Hutchinson hopes to salvage a disappointing season with a rostrum challenge at the Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix.
The Yorkshire rider returned to the sport full-time this year after three seasons blighted by injury and believes he can force his way into top three contention at the world’s fastest road race on August 16.
On his last appearance at the 7.4-mile Dundrod circuit in 2010, Hutchinson won three times as he continued a remarkable season that included a famous five-timer at the Isle of Man TT on Clive Padgett’s Honda machines.
Sadly the 34-year-old suffered a career-threatening broken leg in a crash at Silverstone at the end of 2010 and the quietly spoken English rider has faced a long struggle to return to peak fitness ever since, undergoing 29 operations on his shattered left leg as part of a complicated recovery process.
After sitting out the 2013 season following a below-par return in 2012 at the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT, Hutchinson claimed an emotional victory at the Macau Grand Prix on the Milwaukee Yamaha YZF-R1 Superbike last November.
However, he was unable to build on the result and has found the going tough at the international meetings in 2014.
Hutchinson, though, now feels ready to put in a big performance at the Ulster Grand Prix to conclude the main roads season on a positive note.
“I’ve got a couple of BSB rounds now and then I’m looking forward to getting out at Dundrod. It’s easily my favourite road circuit and I’ve had some fantastic days racing there,” he said.
“My leg is pretty good and my bike fitness is getting better and better with every race. I didn’t realise until this year that the strength just wasn’t there when I was racing. I felt fit but not strong.
“This season is the first where I haven’t felt like I’m battling an illness and I’m I think I’m in good shape, but it’s still been fairly difficult on the roads so far. We only had two BSB races before the North West and then I crashed on the Tuesday and missed a full day of practice,” Hutchy added.
“Race day was a bit too wet for us so it didn’t really go to plan either and I think the TT led on from that. It was a bit disappointing really.
“I think the expectation I’ve put on myself hasn’t helped, but things are looking up now as BSB is coming along. My lap times are improving and it’s such a competitive class.”
Reflecting on his sensational Macau victory last year, Hutchinson said the result gave him a huge confidence boost and the drive to keep pushing in his quest to return to his best form.
“Macau at the end of last year was a big confidence boost too as it proved you never forget how to ride a bike,” he said.
“I need to get back to the front and I’d like to be in contention for the podium, but I’ll keep working away no matter what happens. You wouldn’t come back from injuries like mine if you didn’t think you could do it.
“It’s the same Yamaha I ride in BSB so I know the bike and I think it will be well suited to the circuit.”