Hot roads talent Lee Johnston feels a coveted international North West 200 victory is within his grasp this year as he saddles up with the newly formed Rapido Sport Ducati team.
A exciting collaboration confirmed on Wednesday pairs Northern Ireland’s top-flight Millsport Racing operation with British Superbike outfit Moto Rapido, with Johnston juggling an international road racing challenge plus a full season in the National Superstock 1000 series.
Johnston was a revelation on the roads in 2012, finishing on the rostrum as the runner-up in the first Superstock race behind Alastair Seeley at the North West 200 and proving he was no flash in the pan as he bagged a stunning Supersport rostrum behind William Dunlop and Bruce Anstey on his Ulster Grand Prix debut.
The 28-year-old from Maguiresbridge in Fermanagh also made his bow at the Isle of Man TT and will return to compete on the daunting Mountain circuit in June.
Johnston will have Ducati 1199R Superbike and Superstock machinery for the North West, TT and Ulster GP.
He is also set to join Ryan Farquhar’s newly-formed Vauxhall-backed KMR Kawasaki team in the Supertwin class at the North West and TT.
Currently on holiday with fellow road racing star Gary Johnson in South Africa, Johnston told the News Letter: “The link with Moto Rapido will help with the technical side of things in the British championship and we’ve built up a strong link with Ducati.
“We’re in the British championship to win it and James Murray isn’t putting a whole lot of money into the team to mess around. If I could win a couple of international road races as well that would be terrific and maybe I’d be kept on for another year.
“I enjoy the roads and I have an experienced team behind me, so that has been a big help,” he added.
“I’ll have a 600cc Honda this year for the internationals which has been built for me by East Coast Construction and it should be a good bike, so the rest is up to me.
“My best chance is probably in the Superstock and Supersport races at the North West and those are the ones I’ll be out to win.”
Carrick’s Alastair Seeley has been the dominant force at the North West 200 in recent seasons but Johnston is out to steal the Gearlink Kawasaki rider’s thunder on the North Coast this spring.
“I enjoy racing at home and it’s nice to try and put on a bit of a show in front of the fans,” he said.
“We’ll see if we can take a few wins away from Seeley because it’s getting a bit boring with him winning all the time!”