Johnston all revved up for Oz challenge
Fermanagh's rising star Lee Johnston spent Christmas and New Year on the other side of the world, competing in two rounds of the New Zealand F1 by Suzuki series at Manfeild and the infamous Wanganui Cemetery Circuit, riding not only a new bike on new tyres, but also new circuits in a new country.
Johnston, recently announced as a Honda UK rider for his 2018 road race campaign, said of the Manfeild round: "It was great to be there, the weather was awesome and the track was good.
"Despite being my first time at the circuit, I was just 0.2secs off pole position in qualifying, so I hoped to be in the mix come racing.
"However in race one I struggled with brakes and dropped from the leading bunch and then a 20-second penalty for a 'jumped start' saw me down in 11th position. Between the two races we changed the master cylinder, but it was the wrong thing and as it wasn't safe to race on, I retired."
On Boxing Day at the Cemetery Circuit, Johnston was joined on the grid by Manxman Conor Cummins and in the opening 8-lap race finished in ninth position, 0.033sec ahead of Johnston, who finished 10th in race two in which Cummins retired.
Johnston is now in Australia for the 25th Phillip Island Classic meeting where he joins up with the UK Classic team, who have won the International Classic Challenge for the last three year with Glengormley's Jeremy McWilliams the backbone of the team which will also include Peter Hickman, Michael Rutter and BSB Honda rider Dan Linfoot,
Former MotoGP star and North West 200 winner McWilliams' record in this event is incredible - in 28 challenge races he has had 24 podium finishes (8 wins, 13 seconds, 3 thirds).
His task on the last weekend of January will be tough as USA and Australia field strong teams that include former world Superbike champions Colin Edwards and Troy Corser, TT winner Cameron Donald and TT regular David Johnson.
Meanwhile, 17-year old Kilmacrenan student Richard Kerr is stepping up from the Motostar Moto3 British championship to the Dickie's Supersport class for 2018, riding the Campbell Motorsport Triumph Daytona.
Sympathy is extended to Michael de Bidaph, whose wife Norma died on Sunday. Together they ran the Gearlink Kawasaki team instrumental in the careers of Alastair Seeley, Glenn and Andrew Irwin in the British Supersport championship.