Lee Johnston says he is under no illusions over the scale of the task he faces if he is to repeat his stunning 2015 hat-trick at the MCE Insurance Ulster Grand Prix next week.
The Fermanagh rider was a deserved winner of he Man of the Meeting award after he won both Supersport races on his East Coast Triumph last August, setting a new lap record for the class of 128.913mph. He also won the Superstock race to cap a terrific treble at Dundrod.
It was an achievement Johnston hailed as a breakthrough in his career, following on from his Superstock victory at the North West 200 and an excellent ride to third place on the East Coast BMW in the class at the Isle of Man TT.
Johnston hasn’t quite managed to find the same level of form in 2016 after he was hampered by injury at the beginning of the season following a crash at the Scarborough Spring Cup, but he has battled back to fitness and has competed in the British Supersport Championship rounds at Knockhill and Snetterton since the TT in preparation for the ‘World’s Fastest Road Race’.
“2015 was a breakthrough year for me – a podium at the TT and a hat trick of wins at Dundrod,” said Johnston. “It’s hard to get two good years in a row though and I’ve had a bit of bad luck this year, particularly at the TT and the crash at Scarborough held me back too. That’s behind us now though, and I’m buzzing about getting to Dundrod to see what we can do.
“I won the Superstock race last year by less than a tenth of a second, followed by another hard-fought win in the opening Supersport race ahead of William Dunlop. Those tight battles and mass start part of the appeal, that close racing is so good for the fans too, it seems to mean they automatically like you as a racer,” he added.
“I don’t choose for the races to be tight though – I’d rather win by 10 seconds and have no stress on the last lap but I think it’s just that type of track with all the big slipstreaming going on and the good battles down the last two or three corners.
“I’m under no illusions about what it’ll take to get onto the podium this year. Look at Michael [Dunlop], Hutchy and Dean [Harrison] at the TT, they were on awesome form. You’d nearly bet your house if the weather is good at Dundrod that the lap record will go again and it really could be anyone that does it. I’ll be in the mix and trying my best,” Johnston said.
“If I could do what I did last year I’d be a happy man, to win another three at the Ulster would be absolutely unbelievable. I just need to be near the front and competitive, I want to win.”
The MCE Ulster Grand Prix takes place from August 10-13.