Hutchinson caps amazing comeback to win Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix
Briton fights back from an injury nightmare to hold off titleholder for an emotional triumph
Twenty-nine operations, bone grafts, a battle just to save his leg - three years of agony were wiped out on Saturday as Ian Hutchinson capped an amazing comeback by winning the 47th Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix.
The 34-year-old Englishman was on top of the world in 2010 when he completed a clean sweep of all five solo categories at the Isle of Man TT. But a broken leg suffered in a crash at Silverstone just three months later began an injury nightmare from which he is only now recovering.
Remarkably, Hutchinson was racing for the first time in 18 months, having injured his left leg again last year, suffering a massive infection that required bone grafts and yet more hospital time.
But he showed his recovery was complete, holding off defending champion and eight-time Macau winner Michael Rutter over the demanding Guia circuit. "I've always wanted to win the Macau Grand Prix so it's special just to win it anyway, but in the circumstances it's quite incredible how it feels," said Hutchinson, who insisted he never feared he would not be able to race again.
"I've never, ever thought it's all over, I've just looked for ways round to make it happen again. It's taken a lot of hard work but to have this feeling now, every second I've spent training and doing what I've done to get here has been worth it."
Hutchinson, on his seventh visit to Macau, started the race on pole, but Gary Johnson quickly took the lead, before being reeled in and overtaken by Rutter.
With Rutter's experience and winning record over this track, it seemed that might be it, but Hutchinson got in front on the fifth lap then started relentlessly stretching his lead. When Rutter ran into trouble among backmarkers on the 12th lap it looked all over, and victory was confirmed when the race was stopped on the following lap after an incident elsewhere on the track.
Rutter, who finished second ahead of Johnson, was the first to congratulate Hutchinson as they rode to the pits alongside each other before he arrived back in tears, mobbed by his team and fellow riders.
"It's been a bit emotional, I've been through a lot in the last few years, and had a lot of days in hospital," said Hutchinson.
"I would have done anything it takes to ride again - and I pretty much did have to do that.
"It's one of the most special wins I've ever had with what's gone on over the last three years. Hopefully, now we can put everything with what happened with my leg behind us and continue where we were three years ago.
"Another big part of this race was to get other people to believe in me fully. I know my team have had belief in me and other people around me, but I know deep inside they probably thought I couldn't come back and do it, so it was down to me to prove it before they could give me the full backing."
Rutter admitted that if he couldn't make it a record-setting nine wins, the next best thing was to see Hutchinson complete his comeback. "It's awesome really, fair play to him. He's lying in hospital with his leg basically hanging off a year or two ago and he's come back to win in Macau - and we were doing quick times, it's not like we were going slow … I was well impressed with him.
"He deserves it more than anyone."