NW200: Lee Johnston could spring Superbike shock

Lee Johnston on the East Coast/Burdens BMW
Lee Johnston on the East Coast/Burdens BMW

Lee Johnston will start as one of the top contenders in the Supersport class at the North West 200, but the talented Fermanagh racer is also capable of springing a surprise in the Superbike class on Saturday.

Johnston, who has switched to BMW power this year, has already proven his ability on the premier class machines after finishing on the rostrum at the Ulster Grand Prix last year behind Bruce Anstey and Guy Martin.

He has relatively little experience on a full-blown Superbike but the mischievous Maguiresbridge man feels more comfortable on the S1000RR and may have a few of the established frontrunners looking over their shoulders this week.

“I don’t have a lot of experience on a Superbike and last year was actually my first time having a proper one. The bike wasn’t really right at the North West and in fact it took us until the Ulster Grand Prix to get it how we wanted it,” said Johnston, who is backed by Leamington Spa-based company Burdens in the East Coast Racing team.

“Once we had the bike right, then I was right there with Guy and Bruce at Dundrod. I’m not that big though and I need the bike to be right to have a good go, whereas the likes of Michael [Dunlop] can just throw the thing around.

“With the Honda last year I never felt like I could really manhandle it but it’s different with the BMW because I feel more at home on it and it’s like I’m the boss of it, so I’ve definitely more confidence,” he added.

“There will be no lack of effort on my part and I’ll do my best. If I’m beat, I’ll know I’ve done my best and to be honest I’m still not going there expecting too much, so if we can get a win or two then that will be a bonus.”

Johnston bagged a double in the Supertwins races last year on the north coast but is skipping the class to focus on the bigger machines, although he will ride a Kawasaki for Ryan Farquhar in the Lightweight race at the TT.

He has also changed manufacturer for the Supersport races this year, opting for a Triumph Daytona 675.

“With the Triumph it was a similar situation again compared with the big bike – we just felt that although the Honda was awesome, we couldn’t get any more from it,” said Johnston, who was battling for the lead of the second Supersport race last May with Alastair Seeley when the pair crashed out at Metropole.

“Hopefully going with Triumph will prove the correct decision.”