Lee Johnston: 'I'm lucky enough I have a job to go to' - TT winner working for sponsor

By Richard PetrieBBC Sport NI
Lee Johnston
Johnston is a four-time North West 200 winner

Northern Ireland rider Lee Johnston says he is "lucky enough to have a job to go to" to help supplement his income in light of the decimation of the 2020 international road racing calendar.

Like many other racers, Johnston relies on start money and prizemoney from races such as the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT to help make a living.

The North West has been postponed, with no alternative date yet suggested, with the TT cancelled because of the Covid-19 health pandemic and the future of the Ulster Grand Prix in major doubt.

Johnston is working for sponsor Phil Reed's East Coast Construction company within the social distancing guidelines set out by the UK Government.

'It will come back..when it does I'll be ready'

"It's a big open site so there are few of us working on separate machines. I have worked for Phil on and off for years and started back on Monday after being home for a couple of weeks," explained the Huddersfield-based Fermanagh native.

"It's great to have a job to go to in circumstances like this - some of the other leading racers like James Hillier, Conor Cummins and Dean Harrison run their own companies - so that is handy too.

"It makes you realise what things might be like when you retire and how you would miss racing but these days being healthy and well is what is most important.

"In the context of people losing their lives because of coronavirus motorcycle racing is not important. It will come back and when it does we will be ready."

The 31-year-old put together his own team under the Ashcourt Racing banner last year and a successful season included a maiden TT win in the Supersport class, a victory on the same machine at the North West 200 and some good results in the British Supersport Championship.

The former British Superstock 600 champion's CV includes an Ulster Grand Prix hat-trick at the Ulster Grand Prix in 2015, plus four career victories at the North West 200.

'Any road racing looks unlikely'

The postponement of the North West left open the possibility that the event could be rescheduled for later in the year, an option which Johnston would welcome were it to come about.

"It would be good for everyone's sake as it would give the whole road racing fraternity something to look forward to if they could make it happen. I don't know how realistic it is though," said Johnston.

"As it stands it looks unlikely there will be any road racing this year which is unfortunate because we had done all the hard work in putting the team together last year so this winter was pretty easy.

"We had been testing and I wasn't feeling at all rusty as I went over to New Zealand to do some racing in January. It was a great place to go and the people were really friendly.

"I went with Richard Cooper, the British Superstock champion who rode at the North West for the first time last year.

"He won a few races over there but the racing didn't go quite as well for me as I didn't really get on with the first bike I rode. I had a better bike for the last race I rode on so that went better."

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