Former World Superbike campaigner Noriyuki Haga landed on his feet with the Swan Yamaha British Superbike team after Ian Hutchinson couldn’t stand on his.
Haga was signed to the 2011 championship-winning team as a permanent replacement for Hutchinson, the Englishman who broke his left leg practicing for an exhibition race at a motorcycle show in London last week. Hutchinson was practicing as part of the “Revolution” motorcycle exhibition with a number of fellow British riders, including Neil Hodgson and John McGuinness, when he re-broke the same leg that had been horribly broken in 2010. He was replaced at the motorcycle show by Niall MacKenzie and on the Swan Yamaha team, with whom he’d signed a two-year deal, by Haga, who’d been left without a ride at the end of the 2011 World Superbike Championship.
Hutchinson was just getting back to racing after missing the end of the 2010 season and all of 2011 with severe leg injuries. “Hutchy” suffered compound fractures to the tibia and fibula in his left leg when he was run over by another rider after falling on the first lap of the wet 2010 British Supersport race at Donington Park. While undergoing 16 operations and skin grafts he missed the British championship season, as well as the North West 200 and Isle of Man, where he’d won five classes the year before. He’s expected to race in the BSB Supersport Championship when he returns, as well as the NW 200 and Isle of Man.
Haga will join defending British Superbike Champion Tommy Hill, who won the championship in a thrilling last-lap battle with Crescent Suzuki’s John Hopkins at the Brands Hatch season finale.
A three-time World Superbike Championship runner-up, Haga is familiar with a number of British tracks having finished on the podium in WSB races at Brands Hatch, Donington Park, Silverstone and Assen, now a round of the BSB series. The 2012 championship begins at Brands Hatch on Easter weekend, April 6-9. Haga is also familiar with Yamaha, having raced on the factory WSB team from 1998 through 2000 and 2005 through 2008. The 36-year-old Japanese rider finished eighth in last year’s World Superbike Championship on the Pata Racing Aprilia RSV4.
“I have won races with Yamaha before in the World Championship and now I hope that we can do it again in BSB,” Haga said in a statement. “I don’t know several circuits in England and the BSB Championship but I will do my best to get results this year for the fans, myself and for Yamaha. We will start testing soon and I am very excited to get back on track as we have big ambitions for this season. Finally I hope that Ian Hutchinson can recover soon from his injury.”
“It was a difficult situation for the Swan Yamaha team when Ian [Hutchinson] was sidelined with just four weeks remaining before we begin our pre-season testing program,” team owner Shaun Muir said in the same team statement. “We then had to set out to find a replacement rider and the result for us could not have been better.”