MOTORCYCLING: Lee Johnston makes Honda debut but injured Hutchinson ruled out of action

Honda Racing's Ian Hutchinson and Lee Johnston.

Lee Johnston made his debut on the Honda Racing Fireblade SP2 in Spain on Monday although team-mate Ian Hutchinson has been forced to miss the test at Monteblanco.

Johnston and 16-time Isle of Man TT winner Hutchinson were unveiled as Honda Racing’s new line-up for the 2018 international road races in December.

Fermanagh man Johnston is determined to put a challenging few seasons behind him after being hampered by injury in 2016 and 2017.

The former British Superstock 600 champion missed the TT last year following a crash in practice at Greeba Castle on the Padgett’s Honda Supersport machine.

Johnston, who turns 29 this weekend, is getting to grips with the CBR1000RR SP2 for the first time at the three-day test, which concludes at Monteblanco on Wednesday.

Honda’s British Superbike riders Dan Linfoot and Jason O’Halloran are also present at the test along with Red Bull Honda World Superbike contender Leon Camier.

Yorkshireman Hutchinson, who left Northern Ireland’s Tyco BMW team to join Honda after two seasons on the S1000RR, hasn’t raced since he suffered leg injuries in a crash in the Senior TT last June.

The Bingley man still has an external fixator frame on his left leg but has travelled to the test in Spain where Johnston is spearheading the early-season preparations.

Hutchinson is now focused on being fit enough to take part in a test in April as he builds towards the start of the new season.

The North West 200 kick-starts the international roads campaign in just over two months’ time, with first practice around the 8.9-mile Triangle course getting under way on Tuesday, May 15.

With time against him, it remains to be seen how close to full fitness Hutchinson will be by the time race week commences at the North West.

However, the 38-year-old has overcome even greater adversity in the past and Hutchy is leaving no stone unturned in his bid to make it onto the grid, with the TT his top priority in June.

Honda will be eager to make amends at the international meetings this year after a troubled season in 2017 with the new SP2 machine.

TT great John McGuinness was ruled out for the season after a crash in practice at the North West 200.

In a further setback, the returning Guy Martin crashed in the Superbike TT before Honda withdrew from the Senior finale.

Martin later announced he was stepping back from the sport once more after pulling out of the Ulster Grand Prix, while Morecambe man McGuinness has joined Norton this year to ride the SG7 alongside Josh Brookes.

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