Yorkshire’s Ian Hutchinson returned to the podium at the Isle of Man TT for the first time in five years with a brilliant runner-up finish in the RST Superbike TT.
The 35-year-old led through the first half of the race but was eventually overhauled by outright lap record holder Bruce Anstey, who pulled clear on the final two laps to clinch his maiden win in the premier class on the Mountain Course.
Hutchinson, though, is back to his best and will be confident he can claim his ninth Isle of Man TT victory on Monday as he lines up in the RL360 Superstock and Monster Energy Supersport races.
The ‘Bingley Bullet’ almost clocked a 131mph lap from a standing start on Paul Bird’s Kawasaki and set his best speed of the race on the final lap at 131.076mph as he finished 10.9 seconds down on Anstey.
Hutchinson, who famously won five races in a week at the TT in 2010, said: “I got away well and just tried to settle into it and was happy with my pace over the first couple of laps.
“The first pit stop went well but then halfway through the race it started raining on the west of the Island which unsettled me a bit. When you’ve had 30 operations on your leg and you’re flat out on a Superbike with slicks on in the wet, it makes you think twice.
“The positions started to change and I gave it all I could on the last couple of laps but Bruce did enough to win and I’m pleased for him,” he added.
“But for me to come back here and be so competitive… this is the first time I’ve raced at that kind of pace for five years now and I couldn’t expect too much, I can only get stronger from now on.
“The bike and team is capable of winning so there’s a lot more to come.”
James Hillier came through to earn his first Superbike podium finish on the Quattro Plant Kawasaki after gaining a place when Michael Dunlop crashed out of third on the final lap on the Buildbase BMW after tangling with a slower rider.
It was an excellent effort by Hillier, who narrowly missed out on a podium finish in the 2013 Senior race after Anstey put in a flying last lap to nudge the Bournemouth man back to fourth.
Hillier, who claimed his first TT win in 2013 in the Lightweight race, said: “With John [McGuinness] starting ahead of me, my plan was always to try and chase him down and I couldn’t have been happier with my opening lap.
“Michael had a coming together with a slower rider and I brought the bike home for third.
“I feel about 20 years older now and my knees are killing me but it’s a good start to the week.
“It was an amazing job by the team and a massive effort whilst the pit stops were superb.”