Wee Lee Johnston takes big step up in class with North West 200 win
Lee Johnston came of age during Saturday's Vauxhall North West 200 when he won his first ever 'big bike' race around the 8.9mile North Coast circuit, triumphant in the 5-lap Superstock beating the 15-time winner Alastair Seeley by two tenths of a second in a ding dong affair.
The diminutive 26-year old from Maguiresbridge in Co Fermanagh had previously won both Supertwin races in 2014, finished second in a wet 2012 Superstock race and third in the first Supersport event in 2012.
After Saturday's success an elated Johnston said: "I led the damned thing three times after red flags, so if I hadn't won it I would have been disappointed. The East Coast/Burden's BMW was on rails and to beat Alastair is a bonus. I mean you don't win 15 races round here if you are not a top rider.
"Alastair got me down into Metropole but I got a good run out of Black Hill and I just made it on the brakes into Juniper!"
Johnston dedicated the win to his sister who could not be at the event.
He added: "We said this year we would sit out the Supertwin class to try and win some big races, so with the support of BMW it has paid off and I'm delighted for everyone involved."
Now based in Hull where he works for his sponsors East Coast Construction, Johnston was also involved in thrilling races finishing third in both Supersport races and fourth in the only Superbike race to take place,
After finishing well behind Seeley and Michael Dunlop (right) in the Thursday evening Supersport race, Johnston was involved in a real thriller on Saturday battling throughout the six lap race with Seeley and newcomer Glenn Irwin - at one stage the trio diced side-by-side at 165mph on the fastest part of the course with the slip streaming passes real heart in the mouth stuff.
In the end the result went down to the last lap at Juniper Chicane with all three late on the brakes and again three abreast - Seeley on the inside going on to win, Irwin in the middle going over the gravel and Johnston on the outside forced to take the slip road coming back onto the course and taking the chequered flag second just ahead of Irwin, but demoted to third incurring a 10 second penalty for missing the chicane.
Lee said afterwards: "Those two lads wanted it as bad as I did and that's a bad recipe. It was so tight between us I just sat, sat and sat. Glenn and I went in too hot and I couldn't get turned in. Told about the penalty I stormed off like a spoilt child, but it just showed the pace at the front that I was able to hold onto third."
In the Superbike race, Johnston was again involved in a classic slip streaming encounter until he overshot Mathers Chicane on lap two, fighting back to join the leading pack of four narrowly losing out on a podium in the final shake up finishing fourth behind Seeley, Ian Hutchinson and Bruce Anstey.
Johnston now heads to the Isle of Man TT full of confidence with qualifying begining on Saturday, May 30.