Castledawson’s Nico Mawhinney will make his comeback from career-threatening injuries in 2019 as he plots a full season in the Ulster Superbike Championship.
The 25-year-old will ride an ex-Gary Johnson Kawasaki ZX-10RR Superstock machine under the Team Polaris Racing banner.
Mawhinney was left badly hurt in a crash during his debut at the North West 200 in 2016, when he came off at Mill Road roundabout during practice.
Last year, he entered the Thundersport GB Championship but he sufffered a string of serious injuries after another huge accident at Mallory Park.
The Ulster rider missed the whole of this year but Mawhinney has been training hard ahead of his comeback and says he has rediscovered his hunger for racing.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had that urge to race and I’m getting excited again,” he told the News Letter.
“The thought of racing again next year has brought me out of a really bad place. I was feeling really down and to be honest it was because I missed the bikes so much.
“I’ve been racing since 2007 and it chipped away at me that I wasn’t able to race because motorbikes have been my life.”
Recalling his high-speed crash at Mallory Park last year, Mawhinney said the incident left him ‘in a bad way’.
“I collided with another rider at Mallory Park in 2017 in the British Thundersport Championship and I was really badly hurt,” he said.
“I smashed six inches out of my right femur in the crash and I paralysed myself from my knee down to my left toe, which left me with a drop foot. I dislocated both knees, tore all the ligaments in my knees, smashed my left thumb and broke my left wrist as well.
“I had two operations on my femur to get it lengthened and on my left leg, I damaged the peroneal nerve and I lost control of my left foot,” he added.
“I’ll be using a right-handed gearshift now and Trevor Scott is going to sort that out for me and change it all over.”
The crash was a hammer blow for Mawhinney, coming so soon after his accident in practice at the North West 200 in 2016, when his injuries included seven broken ribs, a punctured right lung, a broken pelvis, heel and ankle.
The Co. Londonderry man was also hit hard by the tragic death of William Dunlop this year at the Skerries 100.
Mawhinney said: “The thing is, you keep going back and you never think it is going to happen to you.
“When William was killed this year it just destroyed me.
“I was friendly with William and we played football together, and I’d have been around him with the racing and stuff, so I was really gutted over it.
“I vowed that I would never go back near a motorbike but prior to William’s accident I already had a trip booked to East Fortune with Gary McCoy. Gary was racing over there and when I went with him, it was then that I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay away.
“Once I came home, I started on a diet and began training. I’ve got the hunger back again and I want to have another crack at it next year.”
Mawhinney has also refused to rule out a return to the roads and reveals he dreams of one day competing at the Isle of Man TT.
“I would love to be able to do the North West, TT and Ulster Grand Prix - the three big road races,” he said.
“That’s my big aim, to be fit enough to do them and try and learn the TT, but it all depends on how I get on next year.
“I guess I’ll know pretty soon at the test in February whether or not I’m going to have what it takes to get back to my best again.”
Mawhinney will take part in a test in Spain in February prior to the first USBK round in March.
He wished to thank the following people: Trevor Scott, Stevie McKee Electrical, Drew Stewart Auto Repairs, JD Racing, The Vinyl Touch, Maeve Tohill (physiotherapist), staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital, friends and his mum and dad.