Gary Johnson targeting a change in fortune at North West
With the Vauxhall International North West 200 less than five weeks away, it has been announced that Gary Johnson will return to the event riding for the RAF/Briggs Equipment Kawasaki team.
From Broughton, near Brigg in Lincolnshire, Johnson sat out last year's North West when his machines weren't prepared in time and is fired up and ready to go this year, joining Lee Hardy's squad and will ride a pair of ZX10RR Kawasakis in the Superbike and Superstock races alongside his own 675cc Triumph in the Supersport events.
The alliance with Hardy, who also runs Jake Dixon in BSB, was forged after Johnson rode for the team in last year's Macau Grand Prix.
The 37-year-old has never won a race at the North West, but has three podiums to his credit, commenting: "I've led a lot of races at the North West since my debut in 2007 and have had some bad luck over the years."
The two-time TT Supersport winner, continued: "I've made the podium a few times in Superstock and Supersport and I will have the bikes that will be strong in all classes. I'm fit and ready to go with all the pressure off me now that I have a good team behind me, instead of preparing my own machines. It's time to focus on Gary the racer now!"
No strangers to the road racing scene, Hardy's RAF/Briggs team won the Macau Grand Prix with Peter Hickman and claimed a Superstock race podium at the North West with Alastair Seeley when they ran BMW's under the Briggs banner.
"It's great to welcome a rider of Gary Johnson's experience back to the North West," said race director Mervyn Whyte.
"It also adds even more strength to the North West 200 grid to have Lee Hardy and his RAF/Briggs Kawasaki team, another leading BSB squad, racing at Portrush in May."
Of course, the team were BSB winners when Jake Dixon scored a double success at Knockhill last season on the Kawasaki, so the machinery is a winning package on the short circuits - but can Gary replicate that success come the North West 200?
There will certainly be plenty of competitors with podiums in mind, including record winner Alastair Seeley (Tyco BMW and EHA Yamaha), Michael Dunlop (Tyco BMW and MD Racing PTR Honda), William Dunlop (Temple Golf Club and Caffrey Yamaha's), Michael Rutter (Bathams BMW), Glenn Irwin (PBM Be Wiser Ducati), Lee Johnston (Honda Europe), Dan Kneen (Tyco BMW), Dean Harrison (Silicone Kawasaki), Martin Jessopp (Riders BMW), Peter Hickman (Smiths BMW) and Conor Cummins (Padgetts Honda) to mention a few.
Road racing press releases and stories come thick and fast at this time of the year and the Pre-TT Classic meeting, which runs next month around the 4.25mile Colas Billown Course near Castletown, celebrates its 30th Anniversary this year.
A record 294 entries have been received for the nine-race programme with Bill Swallow and Mike Hose, the most successful classic riders at Billown with 16 victories each, renewing their rivalry once again.
Barry Davidson from Cullybackey and Lisburn man Brian Mateer head the local interest.
With the cancellation of the Scarborough Gold Cup meeting at Oliver's Mount, a number of competitors may be looking an outing prior to the Cookstown 100, so the Temple Club's third round of the AJ Plumbing Ulster Superbike Championship at Bishopscourt on Saturday, April 21 may be a welcome substitute and information of the event can be found at www.templemotorcycleclub.com.