NW200: All systems go for Lee Johnston after final Honda test

Lee Johnston on the Jackson Racing Honda at Castle Combe.
Lee Johnston on the Jackson Racing Honda at Castle Combe.

Lee Johnston says it’s all systems go for the Vauxhall International North West 200 after completing his final test on the Jackson Honda machines at Castle Combe this week.

Johnston concentrated on his Ten Kate-built Fireblade Superbike during the two-day test at the Wiltshire circuit but he will also ride Supersport and Superstock machinery plus a Kawasaki Supertwin for Ryan Farquhar, which has been painted in the colours of the NI Air Ambulance.

The 28-year-old endured a tumultuous season in 2016 after injuries ruined his prospects of adding to his international win tally, but the ‘General’ is feeling back to his old self and is raring to go at the North West next month.

“I am really looking forward to the start of practice for the North West now,” he said.

“I love racing at home and because the North West is the first meeting of the year you get to see what everyone else’s form is like too.

“I have led most races at the North West at some point and there is no bike that I dislike, so I’ll be trying to win in every race.

“A lot of people have been putting in a lot of effort in to give me good bikes and I want to do well for them and for myself.”

The Maguiresbridge man, who is now based in England, competed at the Bob Smith Spring Cup meeting at Oliver’s Mount in Scarborough last weekend, where he rode his former East Coast Racing BMW Superstock machine.

Johnston revealed that he would continue to ride the S1000RR in the Superstock class this year after learning that Honda is unable to provide him with a new Fireblade SP2.

“I took the old bike out of my boss’s office to race at Oliver’s Mount,” he said.

“I don’t have a contract with Honda and they can’t supply me with a new SP2 Fireblade so I have no option but go this way.”

There was big news recently with confirmation that British Superbike contender Glenn Irwin will return to the North West on the PBM Be Wiser Ducati Panigale, and Johnston expects the Ulster rider to be right in the mix.

“Glenn Irwin will be really competitive,” he said. “He was [competitive] the last time he rode there in 2015 and there is really only Glenn and Peter Hickman who are capable of running at the front on the roads and in the BSB championship.

“Ian Hutchinson and Alastair Seeley will be right up there too and neither of them will want to be beaten by their team-mate.

“There are so many other men who are capable of winning this year; John McGuinness, Dean Harrison, James Hillier, Bruce Anstey, Conor Cummins, Michael and William Dunlop plus riders like Derek Sheils could surprise everyone on the day.

“Coming second doesn’t pay the mortgage so everyone will be wanting to win.

“I’d really like to win a Superbike race,” Johnston added.

“It’s the race that everybody is in and that everybody wants to win at the meeting,” he added,