Lee Johnston bounced back from injury to claim two podium finishes at the Ulster Grand Prix. Just over two months after breaking his back in a spectacular crash at the TT races in the Isle of Man, Lee climbed back on his bike and was immediately on the pace of the front runners around the 7.4 mile circuit at Dundrod despite not being fully fit.

“I felt I was about 80 percent fit if I’m honest,” he admitted. “It wasn’t the pain that was really bad, it was more the weakness and stiffness at the bottom of my back. That made it hard work, especially on the big bike.”

Lee’s two third place finishes came in the two Supersport races, and although he was content with his performance he admitted he was frustrated that he was unable to convert his last lap lead into a victory. “I probably would have been happy with two podiums when I was going into it, but the fact I led the Supersport race on the last lap meant I was annoyed I didn’t win to be honest. I was just tired. My body was done and that was the only reason I didn’t win it. I probably should have won.”

Lee demonstrated that he was unaffected by his big accident when he climbed on board the Superstock bike. He settled into a comfortable sixth spot for the first three laps, before mechanical troubles ended and hopes of a late charge. The non-finish and damage to the bike shortened his race weekend. “On the first Superstock race of the day we had a gear selector problem so we hit a few couple of false neutrals and that is why I ended up running off the track. We never really got it fixed. We maybe could have changed the engine but to be totally honest with the state of my fitness there was no point getting the lads to do all that work for maybe at best a fifth or sixth place finish. We just didn’t bother.”

The Supersport race was to prove the prize winning event for Lee. After qualifying in fourth spot he held sixth after lap one and slowly increased the pace to move up to third by the start of the final lap. The held on to the podium position through to the chequered flag, and then repeated the feat in the second Supersport race.

This time around he was fourth in the early stages, but the real drama came on the final lap when the lead changed hands several times. Lee looked as though he was set for victory when he glided past Hickman with the finish line almost in sight, but he slipped back and had to settle for another third place.

Next up for Lee is an outing at the Macau Grand Prix, although he still has to finalise plans for the Chinese based event. “I am trying to sort out things for Macau and what bikes I’m going to be riding,” said Lee. “We haven’t fully sorted that out yet but I certainly plan to be there and by that time I should be fully fit.”

Paul Gartland was in action at the same meeting. Riding the RT&E 400 Yamaha, he finished eighth after a good battle with Andy McCallister on the Thursday evening before going even better during Saturday’s race to finish a superb fifth. It was a tough week for the Ian Mercer Supertwin however.

During practice, Paul suffered engine problems, which left him in the second group, only to have gearbox problems during the race, forcing him to retire.

Melissa Kennedy’s good form continued in the Ultra Lightweight class at the weekend. Up against some first class opposition, Melissa finished the Dundrod 150 race in 10th place on the KNR 250 Honda, and then went one better in Saturday’s UGP race to take ninth while lapping at over 100mph.