Ian Hutchinson may not be a household name here in the United States, but over on the Isle of Man, “Hutchy” is a pretty big deal. Winning five solo-class races in the 2010 season, the English rider’s hot-streak was cut short after a tragic closed circuit racing accident, which saw him sidelined for the 2011 TT fortnight. Suffering another leg injury going into the 2012 racing season, Hutchinson was still physically not 100% as he headed to the TT, with the Swan Racing Team making obvious adjustments to his Yamaha YZF-R1 to accommodate Hutchy’s injured leg.
While Hutchinson would ride through the pain, he was noticeably off the pace during this last TT meeting. While a large component of those results are surely products of his physical state, where were compound by the fact that his practice and racing schedule has been truncated, many also wondered about Hutchinson’s mental state as well. Twice beaten, once shy, one Swan team member explained to me that when you looked into the his eyes as he got on board the bike, there was something there that didn’t exist before in Hutchy’s eyes. “Fear?” I asked. The team member wouldn’t comment further.
Getting up close with the Swan Yamaha R1, we can see the obvious changes that have been made to the road-going motorcycle to make it a true superbike. The 200+ rear-wheel horsepower is of course tamed with Yamaha’s new traction control system, and all the standard racing bits apply to the team’s massaged thoroughbred: Brembo brakes, Akrapovic exhaust, Marchesini wheels, etc.
What is most striking though, is the absence of any left-side foot controls. Compensating for Hutchy’s injured leg, the team has transferred the Swan Yamaha R1′s shifter to the right-hand side of the bike via a clever rod system, thus replacing and eliminating the rear-wheel foot brake. Don’t worry though, Hutchy still has dual-wheel braking control (as required by the ACU), in the form of a thumb brake that is located on the left-hand side handlebar. Also on that bar is the bike’s quick-shifter, pit lane rev-limiter, and fuel/throttle map toggles.
Beaten like its rider, the white-plated #6 bike has seen its fair share of action. Tackling a seagull at 150+ mph, the Swan crew showed off the broken windshield from the incident with a bit of pride. Hutchy may have lost a step this fortnight, but he won the battle with the wildlife. Unfortunately, the bird passed away shortly after being rescued and delivered to the Isle’s animal conservatory. Looking at the pitted and broken front fairings, there are obvious impacts to the front of the motorcycle. I inquired if these were further proof of Hutchy’s battle with the seagull, but the team commented that those fairings had already been replaced with the current set, and that this pits were from rocks on the course.
Pebbles and rocks were the big complaint from the TT riders this year, as stones were constantly being picked up on the course, and flung aft of the riders — sometimes into fellow competitors. For those doing the math at home, that’s one motorcycle doing 150+ mph in one direction, and one stone doing 150+ mph in the opposite direction, with the two objects colliding in the process (note: that does not equal at 300 mph impact). Carbon fiber is a resilient material, but it is apparently not as resilient as its rider. Best of luck to you next season Hutchy.