Gary Johnson and the RAF Regular & Reserve Kawasaki team were denied a top six finish in Saturday’s Superbike race at the Isle of Man TT races with the Lincolnshire rider being forced to retire on the fourth of six laps when holding on to a good sixth place.
Despite excellent weather, a problematic practice week saw the team hit by a number of technical issues over the course of the six evening sessions around the 37.73-mile Mountain Course but a lap of 127.877mph during Friday evening’s final session put them in a more optimistic mood for Saturday’s six-lap race.
The sunny weather of practice week gave way to cloudier conditions on race day but although the race was delayed by an hour it eventually got underway at 1.00pm and with a strong opening lap of 129.710mph, his quickest of the week thus far, Gary slotted into a good sixth place.
Second time around and another lap in excess of 129mph, 129.208mph, saw Gary consolidate his sixth place and although Norton’s Josh Brookes had closed to within half a second, a good pit stop and subsequent third lap saw Gary edge away from his Australian rival.
Going into the fourth lap, Gary was holding onto a comfortable sixth place on the Kawasaki ZX-10R but as he swept through the Glen Helen section, the bike began to slow, and he had little option other than to retire at Sarah’s Cottage, a disappointing end to a race that promised plenty.
Gary Johnson: “After Friday’s final practice session, we made a small alteration to the bike and we knew where we were in terms of lap times and pace. I knew the team had given me a bike that would be comfortable to ride and when I set off down Bray Hill, the bike felt stable and I was able to push on. It was a bit hard changing direction through the fast stuff but good through the slow stuff and whilst I know we can go faster when things are right, we were holding onto a good sixth place, no mean feat given the competition.”
“With no data from previous years, it hasn’t been easy but the race was going well and I was in a comfortable sixth place but on lap three the bike didn’t quite feel right and through Glen Helen it was getting slower and making more noise, so I rolled off the throttle and pulled up at Sarah’s. It’s a real shame as we could have ended up in fifth with Dean (Harrison) retiring from the lead but we’ve learned a lot and will be in a better position come the Senior next Friday.”
Lee Hardy, Team Owner: “It’s been tough going during practice as we’ve had to start from scratch with a new rider and bike with which we’ve had no data but whilst we’ve had a few issues, we’ve continued to move forward. After the last night of practice, Gary was a lot happier with the bike, going about his business in a methodical manner, and we told him to go out today and enjoy the race.”
“The first half of the race went really well and we were on course for an excellent top six finish but, unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be today. It was obviously disappointing and frustrating for Gary and the whole team as a lot of hard work and preparation has gone into our TT effort. On the plus side, we now have some good data to work with and we know there’s some good results within Gary and with four more races to go, we’ll be looking to achieve exactly that.”
Gary will be back on the Mountain Course on Monday with the 4-lap Supersport and Superstock races taking place.