Brave Hutchinson back on track after injury
Win or lose, it won't matter so much for Ian Hutchinson at tomorrow's 45th running of the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix, not after he nearly lost his left leg in a motorbike accident a year ago.
Just being back on his trusty Yamaha is victory enough for the Englishman who 12 months ago had to convince surgeons not to amputate his leg.
Hutchinson broke his leg in several places in September 2010 when he fell during a British Supersport Championship race at Silverstone. Several riders had also fallen victim to the wet conditions, but unluckily for Hutchinson, he was struck by another rider as he lay on the track.
'The surgeons wanted to take my leg off and I had to fight against it. Thankfully they didn't amputate,' said Hutchinson on his return to competitive action for the first time since the accident.
Hutchinson still doesn't have full control of his left leg, so much so that his team has been forced to modify his bike, swapping the lever for the brakes for the back wheel on to the right side of his Swan Yamaha 1000cc beast.
It worked like a dream, with the 32-year-old rider recording the third-fastest lap time during free practice.
'My left leg hasn't fully healed and we have had to do some modifications. It is just great to be back on the bike and to return to Macau. It is almost like starting all over again for me,' Hutchinson said. 'I have been out of racing for a year and this return is a huge boost for me.'
The English racer made history last year when he won all five solo races at the Isle of Man TT. He yet has to win in Macau, although he has had two podium finishes in five years - landing third in 2006 and 2009.
Just before arriving in Macau, he had yet another operation on his leg to release some scar tissue. Hopes were high that he would be able to be at 100 per cent for Macau, but his progress had been slower than expected, resulting in the team continuing with the modified brake system.
All the attention will be on Michael Rutter tomorrow as he attempts to get into the record books by becoming the first person to win the race seven times. But Hutchinson's return to racing is in itself a testament to the strong will of a champion.
The British racer laid down the gauntlet to the rest of the field when he recorded the fastest time in practice, flying around the 6.2 kilometre Guia circuit in two minutes, 27.618 seconds. Hutchinson was third fastest, two seconds behind Rutter.
The biggest challenge for the riders, however, will be the racing conditions. Steady rain throughout yesterday already forced the cancellation of the first qualifying session. It was rescheduled for early this morning followed by a second qualifying session later in the day.
But if the weather is bad - and rain is forecast - organisers will be forced to use last morning's practice session as a qualifier. That would place Hutchinson third on the grid, behind Rutter and American Jeremy Toye.