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 in use: A 15" SXGA+ T60, a 15" UXGA T60P, a 14" T60 with Intel graphics, a 14" T60 with a T60P MB, a T40 with a T42 MB, a T42P 15" Flexview, 2 X41Ts, 2 X61Ts, an X201T, a W510 and my first Thinkpad, a 770X. A few more for spare parts or projects.