Steve Mercer was spotted testing for Honda Racing’s roads effort at Cadwell Park alongside Ulsterman Lee Johnston yesterday as Ian Hutchinson remains on the sidelines.
Two weeks ago at the official TT press launch, Hutchinson admitted he did not know whether he’d be fit for this year’s international roads season, which gets underway at the North West 200 next month, as he continues to recover from the broken leg he sustained in last year’s Senior TT.
It could be the case that Mercer, who announced plans to retire from road racing last July, has simply been drafted in by the Louth-based squad to assist with their testing programme in Hutchinson's absence, but whispers in recent weeks have suggested the southerner could be in line to replace Hutchinson should the 16-time TT winner be unable to ride.
A decision on whether the Bingley Bullet will be fit to race is expected to come towards the end of this month when he finds out whether or not he can have the external fixator cage removed from his leg.
“I’m putting everything I can in to ensure that when the frame does come off I’m able to get back on the bike and be ready for it, safe and competitive,” Hutchinson said. “Realistically it has to be off by the end of April for there to be any chance of me being fit, so we’re giving it one more month and will go from there.”