Belfast Telegraph

Johnston sets his targets for a big season

By Paul Lindsay

Wise-cracking Fermanagh lad Lee Johnston certainly wasn't lacking in confidence or ambition following last week's four-day test in Spain with his East Coast Construction team.

"Three or four wins at the North West 200 and a couple of TT podiums would be a good season for me," he said.

The 24-year-old may be one of the main paddock jesters, but the diminutive Ulsterman is certainly no 'pie-in-the-sky' joker when it comes to posting top class international road racing results.

In only his second full international season between the hedges last year, Johnston took a North West 200 podium, two more at the Ulster Grand Prix, including a 131.5mph lap and was top privateer at the Isle of Man TT.

Johnston had been linked with Tyco Suzuki and Padgetts Honda for 2014 but, after weighing up his options, the pragmatic youngster opted to stay put with the Lincolnshire- based ECC team.

"The grass can sometimes look greener in the bigger teams, but when you have someone who is willing to back you for one reason only: to go racing with no return apart from self satisfaction, then it's hard to walk away," said Johnston of team owner Phil Reed.

Looking ahead to the North West, Johnston said: "Our goal is to try and get one over on the big teams; that's why we go racing, but I'm not under pressure to deliver wins. We are just there to do our best and enjoy it."

'The General' as the Fermanagh man is affectionately known, has decided to take in a full season of National Superstock racing this year, but has slight reservations about being fully committed until the NW200 and TT are completed.

"We are planning on doing a full season of National Superstock but I don't want it to affect my road racing if I'm honest," he explained. Before joking: "But I don't want to be 'bingo-ing' myself before the North West like I did last year."

Johnston rolled out his immaculately prepared ECC Hondas at Cartagena last week, with all-new Superbike and Superstock machinery flanking his favoured Supersport machine. Recounting the Spanish test, he said: "We had a good test in Spain considering the 'stocker was brand new and we'd just built the Superbike in the workshop. We had no stupid problems and no breakdowns and I didn't throw any of the bikes up the road."

The Supersport machine spent most of the test in the garage, more or less insinuating the diminutive Ulsterman will be looking to progress in the bigger classes on the international road racing scene this time around.

"I'm going to try and ride the Superbike as much as possible to get dialled into that, as there's not much point having a good bike and not putting the effort in," he said.

"It's easy to think you don't have a chance in the Superbike races at the North West, but it's the same riders in all classes, so you have to beat them all one way or other.

"I'll give it a good bash. I enjoy riding the Supersport bike and I've a big smile on my face every time I ride it, but I have to make sure we get plenty of miles on the other two bikes."

Belfast Telegraph

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