Roads: Lee Johnston switches to Honda for 2023 Isle of Man TT

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Lee Johnston has switched to Honda power for the Superbike, Superstock and Senior races at this year’s Isle of Man TT.

Johnston switches from BMW after a tough 2022 outing at the TT, with the Ashcourt Racing team purchasing Glenn Irwin’s Fireblades from last season. Irwin became the fastest-ever newcomer at the TT last season.

“We had a bit of trouble with the big bikes last year, electrical issues and the like, which was a real shame as I was running in the top four in both the Superbike and Superstock Races,” Johnston said. “Being that high up only to run into problems was very frustrating.

“You only have to look around the paddock at both the roads and the short circuits to see that the Honda Fireblade is favoured by a lot of riders, and quite a few guys have been going well on it lately. That tells me the bike has a good base chassis and it’s a good package all round so it’s worth trying at this year’s TT.”

Johnston tested onboard the Fireblade at the recent unofficial Bennetts British Superbike Championship pre-season tests at Andalucia and Monteblanco.

“It’s changed massively since I last rode a Honda in 2018. The newer model feels really nice and smooth,” he explained. “It feels small too, and the fact it’s nice and compact gives a small rider like me a lot of confidence straightaway. I felt really comfortable on it.”

Johnston’s first ever TT podium came in the Superstock class when he finished third behind Ian Hutchinson and Michael Dunlop in 2015.

“It was quite funny being on a Superstock podium alongside Hutchy and Michael, but I want to give it a real good go on the big bikes this year especially as things were going well last year before I hit trouble. I was able to lap at 130mph from a standing start and whilst there’s a couple of mph to be found for it to happen, I’d love to be on a big bike podium again.
“That’s not going to be easy when you see the likes of Michael finishing off the podium in a Senior Race, like he did last year. That shows you how difficult it is to finish on a Superbike podium but the more mileage we do, the better chance we’ll have.”

Johnston may contest some of the opening rounds of the British Superstock Championship, whilst he’ll also contest the British Supersport Championship onboard his Yamaha R6 – which he’ll also use in the TT Supersport races.

Johnston will also compete in the two Supertwin TT Races at this year’s TT onboard the Aprilia RS660.

“We finished second in last year’s race but didn’t really deserve the podium, so we’ve been developing the bike over the winter to get some more power out of it. I want to be competitive and be genuinely ‘in’ the race this time around so as to bridge the gap to the front runners.
“I’m not sure if the Paton’s that Peter [Hickman] and Michael rode last year will be in the race, but you’ve got to do 120mph to win the race no matter what you’re riding so that’ll be the aim.”

This year’s Isle of Man TT gets underway on March 29, with the race schedule as follows:

June 3 – Supersport Race One / Sidecar Race One

June 4 – Superbike TT

June 6 – Superstock Race One / Supertwin Race One

June 7 – Supersport Race Two / Sidecar Race Two

June 9 – Superstock Race Two / Supertwin Race Two

June 10 – Senior TT