Irish road racer Lee Johnston will line up for this year’s Superbike TT aboard Nicky Hayden’s World Superbike spec Honda CBR1000RR. The 27 year old will ride the Ten Kate prepared 2016 spec Fireblade that carried the former MotoGP world champion to a WSB race win alongside 2017 spec Superstock and Supersport Hondas in Jackson Racing livery at the North West 200, TT, Ulster Grand Prix and Macau.
“I want to be back at the front again, winning races and I think this is the bike that can help me to do that.” Johnston said.
The diminutive Irishman scored his first TT podium in 2015 in the Superstock race to add to a North West 200 win and three victories at the Ulster Grand Prix in his best year between the hedges. Last season was ruined by leg injuries Johnston suffered in a crash at the Scarborough Spring Cup and when his East Coast Racing team quit the sport at the end of the year the Fermanagh man was without a ride for 2017.
“I should probably just have stayed at home after everything that happened last year.” Johnston joked.
“But I still had plenty of offers for this year and in the end it was all of the little things coming together that sealed the deal.”
“We are getting help from Honda but they aren’t paying my wages and with Alan Jackson and his team I can run my own choice of kit, bring some of my own people to work on the bikes and keep my own sponsors.” he explained.
The new deal means Johnston will be riding a trick superbike built by Dutch tuning ace, Ronald Ten Kate, who runs the official Honda WSB effort. The Fermanagh man already has plenty of Honda experience, having ridden CBR600RR and CBR1000RRs in 2014 before switching to Triumphs and BMWs. He will have the new 2017 SP2 spec Fireblade available in stock trim but by opting to ride the 2016 spec ex-Hayden Honda he hopes to avoid any problems in finding a good set up with a brand new bike which is not expected to arrive for another couple of months.
“I was over in Holland last week at the Ten Kate workshop and they are super keen to be going back to the TT.” Johnston said.
“Honda don’t bring out bad bikes and if the stocker is on the pace then we will have a go on it but realistically I should be winning a Supersport TT before I’m winning a superbike race. I hold the lap record on a 600 at the North West and the Ulster and I’ve won lots of races on that bike but I haven’t turned it into anything at the TT yet.”
“My bikes were as good last year as they were in 2015 but I didn’t do the business. Now I am hungrier than ever and I just want to win more races than I did in 2016!”
For Alan Jackson and his Preston based squad, signing Johnston is a major coup but they are not fazed by the challenge.
“We have run top road racers like John McGuinness, James Hillier, Ian Lougher and Chris Palmer on our bikes and we are looking forward to Lee’s first test on the new bikes in March.” Jackson said.
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