Our Sports Person for May is enjoying some rare down time in Maguiresbridge. Lee Johnston has returned from a bit of a jolly in the States, racing at Pikes Peak for Victory, makers of the electric bike he took to a podium finish at the Isle of Man last month.
While Johnston’s exploits at the TT marked a serious step forward in his career, a first podium finish on the island being chalked up in the Superstock TT, it’s his outstanding performance at the North West 200 which has seen him claim the Fermanagh Herald Sports Person of the Month award.
Johnston took the Superstock beating the 15-time North West winner Alastair Seeley by two tenths of a second to take top spot on the podium.
He also landed a further two third place podium positions into the bargain. “Apart from winning the British championship winning that first ‘big’ bike race at the North West 200 was massive for me,” said Johnston.
“Everybody says I’m too small to ride a big bike. It was good to show we had the pace on the Superbikes. I led nearly every race at one point or another.” The man known as wee Lee in motorcycle circles has to battle the bigger machines to get them around the course.
Heavier riders find it easier to wrestle the bike around the corners, but Johnston has had to build huge core and upper body strength to get the bikes to bend to his will. “Your body matures and when you familiarise yourself with the courses you learn where you can relax and all that makes a huge difference. You figure out where you can have a cheeky rest,” said Johnston.
“I’m pretty happy with things are going at the minute and I’m not making any massive changes, just keeping going the way I’m going and hopefully it works out.” Johnston is currently based in Hull, working with East Coast Racing as he follows his lifetime dream of a career in racing. With the way things are going, it’s no surprise he could hardly be happier.
“East Coast Racing is great,” said Johnston. “You’re in the same surroundings the whole time and you don’t have to make new relationships and try and guess what they’re looking for. I can just get on with my job and I don’t have anything else to worry about.”
That familiarity is also a huge asset as Johnston starts to get to grips with the tracks. His tactical riding is now much more sophisticated and that has brought enhanced ambitions. “The tactics comes with experience too,” said Johnston.
“With the TT now I know I can get a podium there’s no reason why I can’t win so it gives you a bit more momentum and confidence.” And Johnston is clear as to what is goals are for the next year. “You have to win a TT,” said Johnston.
“The next step this year will be to try and win the Ulster Grand Prix and after that the Macau Grand Prix, but next year it’s going to be all about winning a TT. “I knew what I had to do to make the jump this year, so it’s a case of just doing a bit more.
There’s a few wee bits I want to change on the bike. It’s all tiny bits, but they make a big difference over a lap.”