Lee Johnston aiming to take North West honours
Having tasted podium bubbly at the International North West this past two years, Fermanagh's Lee Johnston is more determined than ever for some top step accolades – starting next Thursday, May 15, when the opening races take place on the picturesque North Coast.
The East Coast Construction rider comes to the event in better shape than ever, both in terms of fitness and hardware. Last season, the 25-year-old arrived at the North West nursing a leg injury after a high-speed crash at Thruxton during a British championship meeting.
But this time he's as fit as the proverbial butcher's dog and has also picked up a high-profile new associate sponsor for the event in Pirtek – who are better known in motorsport circles for supporting British Touring Car champion Andrew Jordan.
"It's great to have a company like Pirtek supporting both myself and the East Coast Construction team for the North West 200," said Johnston.
"They are big into car racing, but are also sponsoring Thursday night's Superstock race at the North West. I'd love to win it for them or at least be on the podium," the Hull-based Maguiresbridge man added.
With the official North West 200 programme now on sale, the bar room debates on who will take the eight available victories at the Triangle will already be resonating.
Seeley, Dunlop, McGuinness, Anstey and McWilliams are names we often hear associated with North West 200, but Johnston is a believer that he can upset the formbook and possibly be the only full-time working man on the top step next week.
"Don't get me wrong, I'd like to be lying about doing nothing during the week like the rest of those boys, but some of us have to go to work," he joked. "But yeah of course I'd like to win a North West; that's why we go racing at the end of the day. We all want to win."
Johnston will race Pirtek liveried East Coast Honda machinery in Supersport, Superstock and Superbike trim at the North West, and he will also 'steer' an East Coast Kawasaki ER6 in Thursday night's Supertwin encounter.
Having come out of Monday's British Superstock action at Oulton Park with a solid top 10 finish, the North West is now on his mind, as he explained. "I think the North West was on my mind at Oulton if I'm honest, but we also want to do well in British championship," he smiled.
"The International roads are the main priority though. They absolutely are," he stressed. "I've a really good team around me and the goal this year is to win a race at the North West and one at the Ulster Grand Prix; and of course I want to edge ever closer to the sharp end at the TT.
"Everything is in place and I've worked really hard over the winter, so there's no reason why we can't be up there next week."
With Supersport, Superstock and Supertwin action kick-starting the competitive race action next Thursday night [May 15] on the North Coast, I'd say Johnston's new sponsor Pirtek – who are also supporting the event – will have every chance of early success with the affable and quirky Fermanagh lad.