Lee Johnston is hoping to put the frustrations of last season behind him and climb to the top of the podium at the North West 200 next weekend. The former Maguiresbridge rider suffered a year of injury hit racing in 2016 that left him without a major win to his name, but this season he is fully fit and being singled out as one of the favourites for victory around the iconic North coast course.

The practice for the North West 200 starts on Tuesday with the races scheduled for Thursday and Saturday, and Lee will pilot new bikes this year as he looks to add to his three previous triumphs at the event. The first international road racing wins of his career came two years ago when he scored a double in the Supertwin races and he followed that up with a Superstock win the following year. After drawing a blank last time out, he would love to add a major Superbike win to his resume on board his Ten Kate Honda Fireblade.

Lee got some competitive mileage under his belt last week when he took part in the official Honda test at Castle Combe and he admitted he could not wait to get the season underway. “I am really looking forward to the start of practice for the North West now,” he said. “I love racing at home and because the North West is the first meeting of the year you get to see what everyone else’s form is like too. I have led most races at the North West at some point and there is no bike that I dislike so I will be trying to win in every race. A lot of people have been putting in a lot of effort to give me good bikes and I want to do well for them and for myself.”

Lee will ride a Jackson Racing CBR600RR Honda in the Supersport class and will be on a BMW for the Superstock race. He will ride for Ryan Farquhar’s team in the Supertwin events on a KMR Kawasaki in the colours of the NI Air Ambulance.

The first practice session for the North West 200 takes place on Tuesday 9th May. The first three races are next Thursday, with the remaining five races on Saturday 13th May.