Road racing’s renaissance man Ian Hutchinson will bid to restore Ulster team TAS Racing to the Isle of Man TT pinnacle in 2016 after penning a deal with the factory-backed Tyco BMW team.
The Bingley Bullet showed he was back to his best at the TT in June, where the 36-year-old bagged a terrific treble to earn his first wins on the Mountain Course since a freak accident in a British Supersport round at Silverstone in 2010 almost cost him his left leg.
The Yorkshire rider refused to throw in the towel in his battle to return to fitness and against the odds made an emotional return to the top step at the biggest road race in the world in the summer, winning both Supersport races on Keith Flint’s Team Traction Control Yamaha and the Superstock event on the PBM Kawasaki for Cumbrian entrepreneur Paul Bird.
As revealed in the News Letter on October 8, Bird’s decision to switch manufacturer to Ducati next year to focus on the MCE British Superbike Championship with Shane Byrne and new recruit Glenn Irwin forced Hutchinson’s hand, with the Panigale R – unquestionably an effective weapon on the short circuits – unlikely to be a Senior TT race-winning package in anyone’s hands.
Philip Neill’s TAS Racing outfit fits the bill perfectly for 11-times TT winner Hutchinson, who could be the man to revive the Moneymore concern’s fortunes on the Mountain Course and deliver a coveted triumph for the first time since Cameron Donald and Bruce Anstey sprayed the victory champagne in 2008.
News of the top-name signing comes as TAS Racing finalised a two-year contract extension with BMW Motorrad to be the German marque’s official team in 2016 and 2017.
Mountain Course history-maker Hutchinson, who is the only man ever to win all five major solo races in a week after an astonishing performance prior to his end-of-season crash in 2010, said Tyco BMW had been his number one choice for next season following PBM’s change of manufacturer.
“We’ve been in negotiations for a couple of months but I’ve always been serious about coming to the team for next year. I’m really looking forward to getting going now with Tyco BMW,” Hutchinson said.
“After pretty much four years away from the sport I now need a bit of consistency. BMW is a huge brand and along with Philip Neill at TAS, they have shown how much they want to be involved with me for next season.
“That enthusiasm sold it to me and with direct support from BMW Motorrad it was hard to turn down.”
Hutchinson will contest the North West 200, Isle of Man TT and Ulster Grand Prix on the Tyco BMW S1000RR Superbike and Superstock machines in 2016 along with a return to Macau in the Far East, where he won on the Milwaukee Yamaha in 2013.
Hutchy will also compete in the National Superstock 1000 Championship as preparation for the TT, although it is uncertain whether or not the quietly spoken English rider will complete a full season in the series.
Under the terms of his new deal, Hutchinson is free to organise his own machinery for the Supersport class and looks set to remain on Prodigy star Flint’s TTC Yamaha R6, which served him so successfully this year.
Ballymoney’s William Dunlop parted company from Neill’s team earlier this month after two seasons in the TAS Racing set-up, but Grimsby star Guy Martin’s plans remain unclear.
Martin has dropped his strongest hint yet that he will skip the TT next June to compete in the Tour Divide – a gruelling mountain bike race in North America –, which clashes with the legendary road racing festival.
In an online interview at the weekend, Martin revealed that he had made a ‘definite decision’ on his plans for 2016, adding that he ‘may have to upset a few people’.
Irrespective of whether or not the 33-year-old competes at the TT, Martin has a gentleman’s agreement in place with TAS Racing next year and there is every likelihood he will compete in the Tyco BMW livery at his favourite meetings, such as the Southern 100, Armoy, Ulster GP and Scarborough events.
The TV celebrity hasn’t raced since suffering a number of injuries, including broken vertebrae, in a crash in the Dundrod 150 Superbike race at the UGP in August.