HONDA SUPERBIKE SWITCH FOR JOHNSTON AT TT 2023
After a frustrating TT in 2022, Ashcourt Racing’s Lee Johnston is hoping that a switch from BMW to Honda machinery for the 1000cc classes will galvanize his efforts at the 2023 Isle of Man TT Races.
Johnston and the team have purchased ex-Glenn Irwin CBR1000RR-RR Fireblades from the official Honda Racing outfit, and is set to campaign the bikes in the RST Superbike, RL360 Superstock and Milwaukee Senior Races later this year.
Winner of the opening Supersport race in 2019, Johnston is hoping the switch to the Fireblade will elevate him further up the leaderboard in the big bike races and complement his challenge in the Monster Energy Supersport and the Supertwin Races where he’ll again be amongst the favourites for honours.
Johnston will be using Glenn Irwin's factory 2022 bikes for this year's TT
“We had a bit of trouble with the big bikes last year, electrical issues and the like, which was a real shame as I was running in the top four in both the Superbike and Superstock Races,” explained Johnston. “Being that high up only to run into problems was very frustrating.”
“You only have to look around the paddock at both the roads and the short circuits to see that the Honda Fireblade is favoured by a lot of riders, and quite a few guys have been going well on it lately. That tells me the bike has a good base chassis and it’s a good package all round so it’s worth trying at this year’s TT.”
That feeling has been confirmed for Johnston in recent tests at the Spanish circuits of Monteblanco and Andalucia.
“It’s changed massively since I last rode a Honda in 2018. The newer model feels really nice and smooth,” he explained. “It feels small too, and the fact it’s nice and compact gives a small rider like myself a lot of confidence straightaway. I felt really comfortable on it.”
Johnston is one of a number of riders to move to the latest and much-fancied Honda Fireblade
Although considered more of a small bike rider, Johnston’s first ever TT podium came in the Superstock class when he finished third behind Ian Hutchinson and Michael Dunlop in 2015, and he’s determined to get good results on the Fireblade this time around:
“It was quite funny being on a Superstock podium alongside Hutchy and Michael, but I want to give it a real good go on the big bikes this year especially as things were going well last year before I hit trouble. I was able to lap at 130mph from a standing start and whilst there’s a couple of mph to be found for it to happen, I’d love to be on a big bike podium again.”
“That’s not going to be easy when you see the likes of Michael finishing off the podium in a Senior Race, like he did last year. That shows you how difficult it is to finish on a Superbike podium but the more mileage we do, the better chance we’ll have.”
It’s highly likely Johnston will contest some early season British Superstock Championship rounds, along with the British Supersport Championship on his familiar Yamaha YZF-R6.
Johnston will also compete in the two Supertwin Races and is hopeful of being more competitive this year on his Aprilia RS660:
“We finished second in last year’s race but didn’t really deserve the podium, so we’ve been developing the bike over the winter to get some more power out of it. I want to be competitive and be genuinely ‘in’ the race this time around so as to bridge the gap to the front runners.”
“I’m not sure if the Paton’s that Peter [Hickman] and Michael rode last year will be in the race, but you’ve got to do 120mph to win the race no matter what you’re riding so that’ll be the aim.”