Isle of Man TT: Johnston out to secure first win at Mountain Course event
Lee Johnston believes his best chances of securing a first Isle of Man TT success will come in the two Supersport races at this year's event.
The Fermanagh native has a best-ever finish of third at the TT but took an impressive win in the middleweight 600cc class at the North West 200.
The 30-year-old has also been competing in the British Supersport Championship.
"A Supersport victory is my main aim. A spot on the podium in the other races would be a bonus," said Johnston.
The four-time North West winner will compete on a Yamaha in the Supersport outings, plus BMW bikes in the Superbike and Superstock classes, all under the Ashcourt Racing banner.
Now based near Halifax, Maguiresbridge man Johnston won two Supersport races on his way to a treble at the Ulster Grand Prix in 2015, the same year that he occupied the final podium spot in the Superstock TT.
He secured two fourth-place finishes in the opening British Supersport round at Silverstone in April as he contests the series for the first time since 2011 but will sit out this weekend's Donington Park round to take in opening practice at the TT.
- Johnston happy to be back as a privateer for 2019
- Johnston targeting 'consistent international podiums'
- Dunlop out to 'do himself justice' at TT
"Doing the British Supersport races has been really beneficial as I've had loads of time on the bike and I'm feeling really good on it," added the Northern Ireland rider, who made his TT debut in 2012.
"The big risk is crashing and getting injured but thankfully I've come through the first few rounds of the series unscathed.
"I didn't want to get to the end of my career and regret not having another go at the British Championship and I want to give a good showing and show that the ability is still there - it's something I had thought about going back to doing for a while.
"I've been racing against the likes of Jack Kennedy and Alastair Seeley, who are first and second in the series, since I was about 16 years old but I came from a working class background and to be competitive you need money.
"Things moved on from getting good money to race to needing sponsorship. I knew I was good enough to be in the top three or four on the circuits but riders in 10th or 11th were able to afford better bikes."
Diminutive stature a drawback on the big bikes
Johnston's best lap of the Mountain Course stands at 130.851mph from 2015, making him the 15th fastest rider ever at the event.
A big practice crash at Greeba Castle during TT 2017 ruled him out of race week and last year he struggled to challenge for high leaderboard positions as part of the Honda Racing set-up.
"My fastest lap at the TT is just under 131mph so I know I'll need to be getting into the 132s and 133s to be in contention in the big bike races.
"Bike set-up is key so hopefully we'll get some good practice time and we'll work as hard as we can to get things right.
"The trouble is I'm so small that I need the big bike to be as good as possible as I can't manhandle it to fight round any problems.
"I need a bit more time on the Superbike but I've ridden the BMWs there before so I have an idea what to expect, although the electronics and suspension are different."
'Dad's Army' dream team
Johnston is pleased to be running as a privateer again for this year's road racing season, with backing from regular sponsors East Coast Construction and Burdens, having struggled to reach his full potential as part of the Honda factory set-up.
He said: "I sat down with Phil Reed, who has been a massive part of my career for the last six to eight years, in the first week in December and we took the decision to run our own team.
"I could never have turned down a factory ride as I'd always have wondered what might have been but I appreciate the things I've got now and I have a good team of people around me - a lot of old boys so it's a bit like an episode of 'Dad's Army'."