Belfast Telegraph

Weather warning puts TT practice off course

By Paul Lindsay

A severe weather warning forced Clerk of Course Gary Thompson MBE to halt last night's practice session at the Isle of Man TT, with gale force winds and driving rain causing mayhem in the Glencrutchery road paddock.

Teams and officials spent the day desperately trying to secure race and hospitality awnings, with the riders and privateers doing their best to avoid heavy infrastructure costs.

North West 200 Superstock race winner Lee Johnston had to abandon dinner, along with the rest of his East Coast Racing team-mates to help another team secure their awning, as he explained.

"We were eating our dinner in the Tyco BMW unit and along with the Smiths' Racing team we had to abandon dinner and help the boys try and secure the unit down as it was lifting four feet in the air," said the Fermanagh man.

Last night's opening session would have been a first for the main protagonists in the Superbike, Superstock and Supersport on the Mountain Course.

But thankfully for Johnston, he did get a run out on Saturday night in the Lightweight class, aboard the North West 200 winning-KMR/SGS International 650cc Kawasaki.

"Yeah I'm riding the bike Jeremy McWilliams won at the North West on," said the diminutive Maguiresbridge racer.

"The wee bike was mint. I got two laps in and as soon as we pulled in, it started raining.

"We've a few small changes to make but Jeremy has the bike set up well for me," smiled Johnston, who was a double Supertwin winner at the North West 200 back in 2014.

Last year the 26-year-old had a stable of Honda machinery at his disposal, but with two BMW Motorrad-supported S1000RRs for the Superbike and Superstock class this time around, and the British championship winning 675 Triumph for the TT Supersport class, the Great Hatfield based rider is looking to eclipse all of his previous records at this year's TT.

Taking his personal best lap of 127.391mph into consideration Johnston said: "To add 3mph is a massive jump, if I want to get in among the podium boys.

"But my game plan is to ride round and ride round, and it wont be for the lack of trying if I don't get on a podium this year."

The East Coast Construction team is also the Fermanagh man's 'day job' employers, with team owner Phil Reed - himself a massive motorsport aficionado - not putting any added pressure on his employee and close friend to make that top three.

"It wouldn't matter if I was riding for Philip Neill at Tyco BMW or Neil Tuxworth at Honda, I expect more from myself than anyone in racing," said the tough and proud little Ulsterman.

"I work my backside off all year for this fortnight and I know that I'm fit to do it.

"But whereas the likes of John McGuinness has the pressure of knowing he has the speed to win, and his team expect it, I'm still working out if I'm good enough, so there's no pressure in that respect," was his thoughtful response.

Many pundits will say, that working with Ryan Farquhar and his KMR/SGS International Kawasaki team, makes Johnston an almost cast-iron podium man in the 650 Lightweight class, where he could possibly even claim a debut TT win.

"The Supertwin [Lightweight] class is as tough as any class now at the TT, but a TT win is a TT win and I'd even be happy with an TT Zero win in the electric bike class," he added.

Tonight's re-scheduled practice is due to get under way at 6.20pm with Superbikes, Superstock and Supersport machines first away.

Belfast Telegraph


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