TT 2017: Johnston will lead Supersport field away

Lee Johnston testing the Jackson Racing Supersport Honda in Spain in March.
Lee Johnston testing the Jackson Racing Supersport Honda in Spain in March.

Lee Johnston will have the honour of leading the field away in the Monster Energy Supersport races at the Isle of Man TT in June.

The Fermanagh man, who has joined the Jackson Racing team in 2017 to ride Honda machinery, will carry the number one plate for the very first time instead of his usual number 13.

Johnston is considered among the favourites in the 600cc class and will have clear road ahead of him as he sets off from Glencrutchery Road this year in pursuit of his maiden TT triumph.

The quirky Northern Ireland man is relishing the season ahead after crashes at the Scarborough Spring Cup meeting and Ulster Grand Prix effectively ruined his chances of adding to his international victories last year.

Behind Johnston in the Supersport starting order is another red-hot contender for victory in Flying Kiwi Bruce Anstey on Clive Padgett’s Honda, who won Supersport races for the Batley-based team in 2011 and 2012 and has finished second six times successively between 2013 and 2015.

James Hillier starts at No.3 on the JG Speedfit Kawasaki and will be followed by big race favourite Ian Hutchinson on the Team Traction Control Yamaha.

Hutchinson has been in unbeatable form on the YZF-R6 over the past two years, winning the last four Supersport races around the 37.73-mile Mountain Course.

Johnston’s Jackson Racing team-mate, John McGuinness, lines up at number five on the CBR600RR in front of Ballymoney man Michael Dunlop on his MD Racing Yamaha, who remains the lap record holder after a sizzling lap of 128.66mph set in 2013.

Dunlop claimed his last Supersport TT win in 2014 and will be fired up to halt arch-rival Hutchinson’s winning streak in the class.

Manx rider Conor Cummins (Padgetts Honda) and two-time Supersport winner Gary Johnson (Triumph) start seventh and eighth respectively, with the top ten seeded riders completed by Dean Harrison (Silicone Engineering Kawasaki) and Peter Hickman (Smiths Triumph).

Michael Rutter retains the same number 11 slot. The veteran racer will be riding a Yamaha for former racer Stephen Thompson from Crumlin.

Aussie David Johnson starts ten seconds behind Rutter although the Norton Racing rider has yet to confirm his ride.

Radcliffe Racing’s Jamie Coward will take over the number 13 plate, usually run by Johnston.

Dan Kneen and Josh Brookes will line up at numbers 14 and 16, although both are still trying to finalise machinery.

They are split by Northern Ireland’s William Dunlop on the IC Racing/Caffrey Yamaha, who is another strong candidate for the rostrum.

Steve Mercer (17), Martin Jessopp (18), McAdoo Racing’s James Cowton (19) and Dan Hegarty are the top 20.