If you can see the recovery partition from windows disk management, you can try to set it active. This will start the recovery process even if the mbr has been changed by a new windows install. If the windows disk manager won't set the recovery partition active, you can boot from a linux cd and use the linux partitioning software to set the recovery partition active.
Reset the bios to default values before you try to do a system restore from a recovery partition. I have done several system restores and the only time I've had a problem is when I changed wifi cards but I'm not sure the hard drive was the original hard drive and the recovery partition could have been for a different thinkpad.
Currently using: A W500, a W520, an X201T, an X220T, an X61T, a 14" T60P,a 15" UXGA T60P and a W700.
Currently idle: A spare W500, a spare X61T, a spare W700, a 14" T61, a 15" SXGA+ T60, a 14" T60, and my first Thinkpad, a 770X.