Roads: Lee Johnston to make racing return at Isle of Man TT and North West 200

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Lee Johnston will return to racing this year with Ashcourt Racing and has confirmed his entry to the Isle of Man TT and North West 200.

Johnston missed the majority of 2023 after sustaining life threatening injuries in an accident during Supersport practice at the NW200. Johnston was airlifted to hospital and underwent surgery on multiple injuries.

The 34-year-old, who couldn’t remember anything from the accident has since documented the mental trauma that he has gone through during his recovery, sharing a video of himself watching the accident back for the very first time.

However, Johnston now has his sights set on racing once more. At the TT,  Johnston will contest the RST Superbike, RL360 Superstock and Milwaukee Senior Races onboard a Honda Fireblade.

Elsehwere, he’ll jump on the team’s Aprilia RS 660 in the two Carole Nash Supertwin Races, whilst he’ll also contest the Monster Energy Supersport Race, the event he won in 2019, but has yet to decide on machinery.

Lee Johnston in action during the opening Superbike practice for the 2023 fonacab Nicholl Oils NW200

“It’s never good to miss a year at the TT, but even more so when the weather was as good as it was last year,” Johnston said. “The amount of track time and the sheer number of laps completed saw the game move on considerably. You’ve got to do 130mph+ now to win a Supersport race which is unreal.”

“I’m being realistic about it. This will be somewhat of a rebuilding year, but I can’t wait to get back on my bike at the TT. Obviously, I want to do as well as possible, particularly in the Supersport and Supertwin Races, but I want to enjoy it as well.”

Johnson is still working toward full fitness and has undergone several tests during the winter period, with more still planned before the start of the season.

“I’d say I’m at about 80% fitness right now. That’s amazing considering where I was and I’m feeling really good. Of course, some days are worse than others but I’m feeling positive and am going to try and win some races in 2024.

“After the injuries I received last year, many people assumed I’d be quitting but it’s not for them to say that as they don’t know what racing means to me, and one thing I learnt from watching from the sofa last year is that I’m not done with racing yet. There’s a lot of life and a lot of races in me yet.”

Lee Johnston in action during the opening Supersport practice for the fonacab Nicholl Oils NW200. Photo Rod Neill

2024 is a year of transition for Johnston, following the swap from BMW to Honda in the 1000cc classes. Missing a year at the TT is also never easy given the level of competition and the pace that the frontrunners are now setting.

“I’ve got to let the two weeks come to me and not get frustrated. Everyone else will be quicker than me at the beginning of the fortnight as I’ve obviously missed a lot of track time, not just at the TT but everywhere else too, and we haven’t got any data to go on with the Hondas or the Supersport bike.”
“We’ll be behind the eight-ball a bit to begin with but that’s why we’ll be testing as much as possible before the TT gets underway. Racers aren’t known for their patience but I’m old enough to know there’s nothing to gain by getting frustrated. We’ll work our way methodically through the process and set realistic goals. Anything else will be a bonus.”

Alongside his road racing plans, Johnston also hopes to contest the British Supersport Championship once again. He won the opening two races of 2023 before his injury, and also finished third and fourth overall in 2021 and 2022 respectively.
“I definitely want to try and do the full British Championship if I can. Financially, we’re not quite there yet and still need some backing to make it happen, but I want to do it for sure. 2021 and 2022 went well and so did the beginning of last year, so I want to challenge for the title again.”