NW200: Lee Johnston upbeat after first test on ex-Hayden Honda

Lee Johnston
Lee Johnston

Lee Johnston is looking ahead to the Vauxhall International North West 200 in May with renewed optimism after putting an injury-blighted 2016 behind him.

The Fermanagh man has joined the Preston-based Jackson Racing team this year to ride Honda machinery and Johnston had the chance to test his new bikes last week at Monteblanco in Spain, where a closed doors shakedown was held for the full official Honda Racing squad.

Johnston, who will be joined in the Jackson colours by John McGuinness for the Supersport races this season, will ride an ex-Nicky Hayden Fireblade in the Superbike class and the 28-year-old is upbeat following his first impressions of the Ten Kate-built CBR1000RR.

“The new bike felt good and on paper it should be competitive,” Johnston said.

“We just need to see how it goes on tarmac now.

“Last year was tough; I now know what a bad year feels like and I don’t want to feel it again.

“There is no reason why I can’t win this year. I have led every race around there [at the North West]. Last year I was the problem and I have worked hard all winter to sort things out so we will just have to wait and see now how it goes.”

Johnston was left on the back foot following a crash at the Scarborough Spring Cup meeting in April.

He never fully recovered until after the Isle of Man TT, but more misfortune lay ahead and the 2015 Ulster Grand Prix man of the meeting was ruled out of the Dundrod showpiece after breaking his arm during a crash in practice.

Johnston spent the last two years riding BMW S1000RR machinery in the 1000cc classes for East Coast Racing but previously raced Hondas in 2014.

“I gelled straight away with the 600 in Spain,” he said.

“After two years of being on the BMW using a fly by wire throttle the Honda feels different, but as a whole package I’m confident in what the bike is fit to do.”

Johnston won the Superstock race at the North West in 2015 and notched a Supertwins double at the event in 2014.