North West 200 favourite Lee Johnston underscored his rich vein of form ahead of the north coast road race next week with his third rostrum finish of the season at Oulton Park yesterday.
Johnston began the British Supersport Championship in fine style last month, with the Ashcourt Racing Yamaha rider twice finishing as the runner-up at Silverstone behind Dublin’s Jack Kennedy.
Mar-Train Yamaha rider Kennedy sealed his third straight win in the Sprint race at Oulton to extend his lead at the top of the standings, with Johnston narrowly denied second place by only 0.6s after a battle with Appleyard Macadam Yamaha’s Bradley Perie.
The Fermanagh man was a Supersport winner at the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT in 2019, and Johnston will head to Portrush next week as a leading contender for more silverware.
He also posted the fastest lap yesterday to secure pole position for today’s Feature race at the Cheshire circuit (3.40pm).
“When we came here before the road races the last time (in 2019) I thought, ‘I’m going to take it steady and be safe’, but that didn’t work out too well!
“So I went with a different approach this time and was just gung-ho and tried to get to the front. But I didn’t have a great start and I hit a false neutral and went down a gear too many. I think we were fifth or sixth, so I had to come back.
“I think if we could try and get away with Jack – I don’t know if we’d have the pace to beat him – but it would be nice to get out from the mayhem and try and go for it.”
Randalstown’s Eugene McManus finished seventh on his Kawasaki, with Michael Dunlop in 19th on the MD Racing Yamaha.
Dunlop is also competing in the National Superstock 1000 class on a Honda Fireblade in preparation for the upcoming major road races.
The Ballymoney man pulled the plug on his deal to ride a Ducati for Paul Bird at the North West and TT over a lack of testing time on the bike, and is now attempting to secure an alternative machine for the Superbike class.
Ian Hutchinson was also in action and finished in 16th on the Yamaha he will ride on the roads for Northern Ireland team BPE/Russell Racing.
In the British Superbike Championship, series leader Glenn Irwin was 11th in the first race yesterday.
The Honda Racing rider won all three races at Silverstone last month for his first BSB hat-trick, but Irwin was outside the top ten at Oulton and will be looking to climb the order in today’s two races (1.30pm and 4.30pm) at the Bank Holiday meeting.
His brother Andrew finished 12th on the SYNETIQ BMW, with Bradley Ray winning the race for OMG Yamaha from Rory Skinner and Kyle Ryde.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s 60th anniversary Tandragee 100 in County Armagh was washed out by heavy rain.
Only three races were held, with Dominic Herbertson taking victory in the Supersport event from Michael Sweeney.
Hexham racer Herbertson was filling in for the injured Mike Browne in the Burrows Racing team after the Cork man broke both ankles in a crash at the Cookstown 100.
Limavady’s Jack Oliver won the Junior Support race while Barry Davidson triumphed in a close Junior Classic race from Nigel Moore.