Lee Johnston declared himself happy with his North West 200 despite not securing a victory. The Maguiresbridge rider secured two podium finishes with second place in the Supersport race on Thursday and third in the first Superbike race on Saturday in difficult conditions.
“It was good to get a second and a third. It was a good start to the year,” he said. “I wanted to win, especially the Superstock race I won the other year, but I just got caught out with a red flag and the weather. I was on the pace so I was a bit frustrated with that one but it was good to get some podiums and we are sitting in good shape to go to the TT now.”
The competitive racing got underway under blue skies on Thursday, and Lee made a solid start to the event with a fifth place finish in the Supersport race. Lee had high hopes for the Superstock race that followed but a slow start knocked Lee back into the chasing pack as Alastair Seeley raced clear to take his first win of the weekend. “In the Superstock I made a bit of a mistake at the start,” Lee admitted. “I hit a false neutral and dropped back to fourth and by that time Seeley had sort of checked out. Me and Dean (Harrison) had a really good battle towards the end of the race, but Seeley was seconds up the road.”
A clutch problem kept his bike in the pits for the Supertwin race and there was more disappointment on Saturday morning when he crashed in the Supersport race following a collision with Adam McLean while in among the leading pack. Lee was in contention for another podium as the pack approached the Juniper chicane at the end of lap three but as he made a move down the inside the gap in front of him was closed by McLean, forcing Lee onto the kerb and knocking him sliding into the gravel trap. “I got knocked off on the Supersport race which was a bit annoying,” he said. “My back and my neck is a bit sore and I chipped a little bone in my elbow but it’s nothing major and nothing that is going to affect me for the TT.”
Before the Superbike race the rain descended leaving treacherous conditions for the bigger bikes, but Lee was among the top three from the off, and held on to secure his second podium of the meeting. “I don’t really like the wet conditions but the bike felt good and I was able to push on and rode to the grip. You are going in towards Coleraine doing two hundred miles an hour and you sit up to brake and you don’t know if it’s wet or dry. It’s not the safest thing in the world to be doing. We started catching (Michael) Rutter at two thirds distance but then the tyres starting going off a bit unfortunately and it fell to pieces. We couldn’t keep up the pace and we were a second or two off him but it was nice to bring it home at a podium.”
He briefly threatened a podium finish in the Supertwin race before gearbox issues ended his race early but he bounced back with fourth place in the Superstock event. He was unable to get his bike out for the final Superbike race due to technical issues with the machine, but despite the frustrations there was plenty of positives for Lee to take from the weekend with the TT races on the horizon. “I’m feeling good for the TT,” he said. “We still have a bit of work to do but everything is coming into place and hopefully it should be good.”