Belfast Telegraph

Sports Awards

Lee Johnston targets best of British

By Paul Lindsay

Ulster Grand Prix hat-trick hero Lee Johnston will make a return to British Championship action this coming weekend at Knockhill in Scotland, as he looks to rediscover the form that brought him major success at Dundrod last August - in the final international road race of the season.

The Fermanagh ace, who rides for East Coast Racing, finished sixth in this year's TT Supersport race two aboard his ECR 675cc Triumph, with a best lap of almost 127mph.

And despite having posted four laps in excess of 130mph on his East Coast Racing BMW machinery at this year's TT, the Maguiresbridge rider - who is a former 600cc class British champion - has opted to jump back into the hotbed that is British Supersport this weekend.

"I stopped racing in the British Championship because the truth is I'd stopped enjoying it, but I'm genuinely excited to be going back and getting stuck in this weekend at Knockhill," said Johnston, who took in last week's official BSB test at Snetterton and posted times that should, in principle, see him compete in or around the top six this coming weekend at the Fife venue.

"It's quite funny as I met a couple of kids on track at Snetterton that I didn't even know," said the 27-year-old, who won the British Junior Superstock title as a fresh-faced 19-year-old back in 2008.

"It might as well have been at a track day," said Johnston, who also plans to take in round six at Snetterton prior to this year's MCE Insurance Ulster Grand Prix, with Oulton Park in September quite possibly a precursor to the Macau Grand Prix in November.

"I'm going back to the British Championship for my own reasons," said Johnston, whose current season, as he will openly admit, just hasn't reached the heights of 2015, which began with an International North West 200 win and an Isle of Man TT podium.

"I probably would have started the season with a few BSB rounds before the North West and TT," said the East Coast Racing pilot.

"I got injured in that Spring Cup meeting at Scarborough and it was a rush to get fit for the North West.

"We did okay, although I struggled on the big bikes a bit even though I think we led all the races at some point.

"There were another six guys at the very top of their game at the NW200 and I feel I was penalised unfairly and missed out on a Supersport podium, but that's the way it goes," he said, reflecting on the north coast's May showpiece.

The TT did produce the aforementioned sixth place in Supersport race two and a handful of 130mph laps on the big bikes, but the disappointment of having an engine failure, whilst holding fourth place in the TT Superstock race, was possibly a bitter pill to swallow.

But as Johnston explained, it summed up the TT for him. "The Superstock race was no one's fault; these things happen. But the TT was all 'ifs and buts' for me. For whatever reason my head wasn't quite in it one hundred percent, but the boys in the team did a great job," he said.

Looking ahead, Dundrod and the UGP is high on his priority list, but he was quick to shrug off the favourite's tag, despite a hat-trick last year.

"To be honest on current form Hutchy and Michael (Dunlop) have to be regarded as the men to beat," he said. "I really enjoy Dundrod and learned a lot following Hutchy and Bruce (Anstey) last year.

"It's a big event on the calendar for us as a team, but first things first and that's this weekend at Knockhill in the Supersport class. My wee mate Taz Mackenzie says he'll tow me around, so that's me sorted," Johnston concluded, with his trademark cheeky grin.

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