By Neil Morrison
Ian Hutchinson will make his long awaited return to racing in 2014 with the backing of BSB team owner Shaun Muir.
Hutchinson has been battling a serious leg injury since 2010 but with his recovery ahead of schedule he will compete with Shaun Muir Racing in the three international road races in 2014.
As Shaun Muir confirmed main sponsor Milwaukee and Yamaha's continued commitment to SMR, Hutchinson is at the forefront of those plans, although his main sponsor has yet to be decided.
Muir told Crash.net:
“I had made a commitment to Ian Hutchinson that whatever happened I would support him.
“We've got some other interested parties that we're talking to and that could mean we'll run three riders next year, two with Milwaukee, one with another sponsor.
“They'll be identical, factory bikes supported by Yamaha. There's a lot of effort going on behind the scenes with that.
“Hutchy has signed but for SMR, not Milwaukee. He may well be on a Milwaukee bike but we haven't made a final decision.”
The news will come as a much-needed boost to Hutchinson who hasn't raced at all in 2013, instead focussing on healing the injured left leg. Muir also confirmed the Bingley rider's main target is to compete at the North West 200, TT and Ulster Grand Prix, while the rest will depend on his physical condition.
“With Ian we've got two bikes, a Superbike and a Supersport machine for next year,” said Muir. “We'll put him in one of our support vans and send him to Spain with a load of tyres testing to see how he feels and see what his pace is like. Then we'll sit down at the end of March and we may well throw the odd event in.
“In our opinion we're not sure if that's what he needs but I've got track days and testing lined up or we may turn up at the North West and do the first event there. We've got a completely open book but Ian's agenda is to target the three internationals on the calendar.”
Hutchinson broke his left leg in a horrific first lap collision at Silverstone in 2010 and has had 28 operations since. After a year on the sidelines he was scheduled to compete in Muir's Swan Yamaha team in both BSB and at the TT in 2012 but an innocuous pre-season accident broke the leg again and unknown to the rider, caused a massive bone infection.
A bone graft was then scheduled in August 2012 and it has been recovering and growing ever since. Hutchinson recently revealed on his Twitter account that the healing process is ahead of schedule and he can now hold weight on the left leg.
Muir confirmed this, saying: “Ian's leg is straight and has grown the right length. The bone transplant has worked and he had a preliminary check-up three weeks ago and the outcome was that he is two to three months ahead of the healing programme. The brace will come off at the end of August.