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General is aiming to rule at Dundrod's Ulster Grand Prix

By Paul Lindsay

Published 04/08/2015

Tough test: Lee Johnston is expecting the Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod to be hotly contested
Tough test: Lee Johnston is expecting the Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod to be hotly contested

Lee Johnston is fired up and ready to take on the big guns at this week’s Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix.

And despite having only ridden a few laps at Scarborough and Cadwell Park since the Isle of Man TT back in June, ‘The General’ is itching to get back behind the bubble on his East Coast Racing machinery at Dundrod.

Quirky as ever, the Fermanagh racer — who is based in Great Hatfield, Yorkshire these days — explained what he has been getting up to while his contemporaries have been winning races at the Southern 100 and on the Irish National scene.

“I’ve been riding motocross and I’m almost acceptably good. The only thing is, I can’t get back on the thing when I fall off as I’m so small, so I’ve learned not to fall off,” he confided, always ready to poke fun at his diminutive stature.

Johnston came of age at this year’s Isle of Man TT with a phenomenal 130.851mph effort in the Superstock race en route to his debut TT podium.

It firmly proved his credentials as a serious 1000cc class racer, and as he said at the time: “It proves that little people can ride big bikes.”

This week at Dundrod, Johnston will again have a full stable of East Coast Racing machinery, thanks to friend and personal sponsor Phil Reed.

BMW is the choice of machinery in the Superstock and Superbike classes, and the 2014 winning 675cc Triumph, which took Lee to fourth and sixth place at the TT, is his steed of choice in the Supersport class.

Speaking of his love for the Dundrod circuit, he said: “The TT is special, but it’s nice to come home and race in front of friends and family.

“I always get a good reception at Dundrod, and I’ve never hidden the fact that it’s my favourite track. 

“When you start racing bikes you just want to go fast, and at Dundrod you can go faster than anywhere else.

“It’s a well run meeting and there’s no messing about; they get the job done, but they also keep the local feel to it, which is great.”

Just when you thought he was getting serious, the perennial joker added: “The problem is that everyone else loves Dundrod too, so it doesn’t make it any easier trying to jump on the podium, but if you win you certainly want to beat the best of them.”

Naming the obvious contenders, he continued: “Hutchy (Ian Hutchinson) is in great form and will be hard to beat at Dundrod. Then you have Guy Martin, William and Michael Dunlop and Bruce (Anstey) is special around Dundrod too, and I think Dean Harrison will go really well.

“The list of quality just goes on and on.”

This week, Johnston was doing some promotional work for a personal sponsor, who as he put it: “Helped me all those years ago when I was starting out.

“So now that Lakeland tyres have a base not far from Dundrod, it is nice to go and give something back.”

A small man with a big heart, Johnston has also raised almost £10,000 and counting this year for Marie Curie, but admits he’s been quizzed a few times about his helmet design, which is based on the famous Dukes of Hazzard car — the General Lee.

The 1969 Dodge Charger livery was a take on the controversial Confederate Flag, but the popular racer said: “The design comes purely from the nickname I was given and not the flag.

“I use pink instead of orange for a base colour, so if anyone can find a pink Dodge Charger, please let me know.”

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