There will always be some race wins that will leave you overwhelmed, stumbling to get past that huge lump in your throat or discretely wiping away that errant teardrop. Those races are the epitome of willpower, a perfect example of what single-minded resolve, focus, courage and self-belief look like.
Five years ago no one thought Ian Hutchinson would ever stand on the top step of the Isle of Man TT podium, holding up a trophy, spraying champagne. Nearly 30 surgeries later, Hutchy did exactly that. Monday evening, he lifted high the Monster Energy TT Supersport Race 1 trophy. It was a moment everyone had been waiting for. Hutchy’s 130mph marker during Thursday’s qualifying and a second spot at Sunday’s race had after all hinted to this very moment.
As he pulled in, the Grandstand, the commentators’ box, even social media erupted with cheers, shouts and claps. An emotional Hutchy tried to hold back his tears and celebrate a victory that had been long in coming.
Chris Kinley of Radio Manx TT asked him, “How does it sound to be called a TT race winner again?”
“I was always going to hear it,” Hutchy replied instantly, confident and emotional all at once.
He had beaten Kiwi Bruce Anstey by 7.7 seconds in a 4-lap race. In the beginning however, it was Gary Johnson, who led at Glen Helen, but his lead did not last for long. Hutchy was in 3rd place, almost sharing the space with James Hillier, Anstey and Lee Johnston. By the end of the opening lap, he had clocked in 126.400mph, leading Johnson by .77s. Anstey was now in 3rd spot, two seconds behind Johnson. Hutchy increased the lead at Glen Helen by 2 seconds and Anstey was up to 2nd place. It looked like this was going to be a close race, with Anstey determined to win the top step of the podium. Hutchinson continued to edge away and managed to hold on to this lead by the end of the 2nd lap. But Anstey had made a charge over the Mountain and with a lap of 126.984mph. He had closed in on Hutchinson by 2.4s.
The pitstop helped increase the time gap. Hutchinson’s team made quick work of it to increase his advantage to 6.6s on Glen Helen, at the start of lap 3. He held on to the gap at the start of the final lap. Then, Anstey started a last-minute charge, chipping away at the lead and bringing it down to 5 seconds. Hutchinson’s response was pat – a crazy 2.5s quicker on the run to Ballaugh.
The 35-year-old finished with the fastest lap of the race – 127.571mph. As he crossed the finish line, it seemed like those nightmarish five years had finally come to an end.
It was a hell that began in 2010 after a horrific crash in Silverstone. Hutchinson had just finished a fairytale week at the 2010 Isle of Man TT, becoming the first man to win five solo TT race wins in one week. At the Silverstone crash, Hutchy suffered extensive leg injuries with fears of amputation. It looked like his racing career was over. That was 30 surgeries and a lot of willpower, ago. That is now in the past.
And sharing the moment with him on the podium were Bruce Anstey and Eric Johnson who took second and third place. Lee Johnston took 4th place, his best TT finish so far. Guy Martin ended up in 5th, after suffering a 30-second penalty for speeding in the pits, and Hillier took 6th.
In the end though, the moment belonged to Ian Hutchinson, to a comeback worthy of history books.