Honda Racing’s Ian Hutchinson is confident he will be back to his best this season after the Yorkshire rider struggled with injury throughout 2018.
Hutchinson made his racing return last year following a crash in the Senior TT in 2017, but the 39-year-old was way below peak form at the North West 200 and TT.
However, the 16-time TT winner has worked tirelessly to regain full fitness and after an encouraging pre-season testing programme, Hutchinson says he is more excited than ever going into this week’s North West 200.
He pushed Honda for improvements to the CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 and the determined English rider says he couldn’t be happier with his Superbike, Superstock and Supersport machinery.
“It has been a really good off-season and we’ve managed to get a lot of track time with a road bike and also for official team test,” he said.
“I gave the lads a bit of stick over the winter, but they have pulled out all the stops and all the bikes have been absolutely brilliant.
“Everything is working really well and I can see the effort they have all put in, so I can’t thank them enough. Everything has gone in the right direction during testing and I really feel ready for the North West 200 with all three bikes,” Hutchinson added.
“Personally I am in a totally different place coming into the races than I was last year, so I’m more excited than ever heading into the season.”
Wrapping up pre-season testing on a high, Hutchinson and new signing David Johnson have benefitted from plenty of track time in Europe and the UK in preparation for the North West, TT and Ulster Grand Prix.
The team has worked closely with Dunlop throughout each test and both Hutchinson and Johnson have tested different tyre compounds, as well as working with new suspension partner K-Tech, to fine-tune their set-up.
New recruit Johnson, who replaced Northern Ireland's Lee Johnston in the team, said: “I’m really happy with how pre-season testing has gone. I’m with a new team with Honda this year, but everything is working really well and I definitely feel ready to go racing now.
“In all honesty, I felt ready even after the first test, but we have had the odd day here and there in-between and everything is working so well.
“I’m looking forward to the North West 200, it’s our first race of the year and it’s a great one to kick start the season off with,” he said.
“It’s always close racing and I think this year with the team I'm in the best position I’ve been in a long time to really get things off the ground.”