NW200: Gary Johnson aiming to fly high on RAF/Briggs Kawasaki

Gary Johnson on his Triumph Supersport machine at last year's Isle of Man TT.
Gary Johnson on his Triumph Supersport machine at last year's Isle of Man TT.

Lincolnshire’s Gary Johnson says he is free to focus on his racing as he prepares for the Vauxhall International North West 200 after signing for the RAF/Briggs Kawasaki team.

The 37-year-old skipped the event in 2017 and went straight to the Isle of Man TT, but Johnson will make the trip to the North Coast next month as he joins a stellar line-up for the first major road race of the season.

Lincolnshire's Gary Johnson will return to the North West 200 this year after missing the even in 2017.

Lincolnshire's Gary Johnson will return to the North West 200 this year after missing the even in 2017.

He will ride Kawasaki ZX-10RR machinery in the Superbike and Superstock classes plus his own Triumph 675 Supersport machine.

The two-time TT winner struck up an association with Lee Hardy’s British championship Kawasaki outfit after riding for the team at the Macau Grand Prix last November.

Hardy’s team enjoyed success in BSB last year when young gun Jake Dixon made it through to the Showdown, claiming a fantastic double along the way at Knockhill in Scotland.

With solid support behind him once again, Johnson is now aiming to forge his way into contention for more international success in 2018.

“I am fit and ready to go with all the pressure off me now that I have a good team behind me – I can focus on Gary the racer now,” he said.

“I’ve led a lot of races at the North West 200 over the years and had some bad luck too.

“I’ve made the podium a few times though on 600s and ’stockers and I’ll have bikes this year that will be strong in all the classes.”

Hardy’s team has tasted success on the roads in the past, with Peter Hickman claiming victory in the 2015 Macau Grand Prix, while Alastair Seeley bagged a Superstock rostrum in 2015 when the team ran BMW machinery under the Briggs banner.

NW200 Event Director, Mervyn Whyte, said Johnson added further depth to an already star-studded field.

“It is great to welcome a rider of Gary Johnson’s experience back to the North West again this year after he missed last year’s races.

“It also adds even more strength to the NW200 grid to have Lee Hardy and his RAF Kawasaki team, another leading BSB squad, racing at Portrush this May.”

Opening practice is due to take place on Tuesday, May 15, with final qualifying and the first three evening races scheduled for Thursday, May 17.

Both flagship Superbike races will be held on the main race bill on Saturday, May 19.