Lee John­ston and Dean Har­ri­son re­main the best of mates even if they’re tak­ing chunks out of each other on track Age 32 TT wins 1 Fastest lap 132.414mph

Motorcycle News (UK) - - TT 2017 PREVIEW - By Stephen Dav­i­son ROADS REPORTER

For TT 2017 the race or­gan­is­ers have de­cided to play up the bad-tem­pered ri­valry be­tween Michael Dunlop and Ian Hutchin­son that fes­tered through­out last year’s event. Their an­i­mos­ity is be­ing pro­moted as some­thing fans can get be­hind at this year’s races by pur­chas­ing a pro­gramme that has their par­tic­u­lar favourite em­bla­zoned on the cover. The con­cept is alien to rac­ing best mates, Lee John­ston and Dean Har­ri­son.

“You don’t have to hate some­one to race against them,” John­ston says. “I think there is too much em­pha­sis on ev­ery­one think­ing you have to fall out with some­one to be able to race against them. You don’t.”

“If some­one beats you then you have to be man enough to say that the best man won,” Har­ri­son agrees.

To prove their point the Brad­ford boy and his Fer­managh friend re­fer to their bat­tles dur­ing this year’s North West 200.

“In the 600 race I was one place in front of Lee and in the Su­per­stock race I was one place be­hind him,” Har­ri­son smiles.

“I’m not go­ing to fall out with him; the best man wins on the day and if you don’t win then come back and have an­other go. Your day hope­fully will come and you just keep try­ing.”

“We re­ally, re­ally care about win­ning and rid­ing our bikes but at the end of the day it’s a mo­tor­bike race and there is a whole big world out there called real life,” John­ston chimes.

Great friends

John­ston and Har­ri­son have only known each other for a few years but the pair have de­vel­oped a close bond and Har­ri­son jokes that they know each other so well there’s no room for the nor­mal rac­ing bull­shit. “It’s like when some­one says after a race that they had a lit­tle bit left in the bag,” he says. “Have they ever!”

John­ston doesn’t see the point in all the smoke and mir­rors stuff. “We ride to­gether all the time, we do every­thing to­gether, so we know how the other one is and it doesn’t stop ei­ther of us from beat­ing each other. That’s the thing that gets me. Take Rut­ter and Mcguin­ness, they have to know exactly what each other is think­ing. Even Michael and Hutchy have raced to­gether so long there can’t re­ally be any­thing that they don’t know about each other.”

The next gen­er­a­tion

Both Har­ri­son and John­ston have tasted enough of the win­ner’s cham­pagne to know what they are talking about when it comes to rac­ing on the roads.

Har­ri­son picked up where Guy Martin left off as a Scar­bor­ough spe­cial­ist, dom­i­nat­ing pro­ceed­ings at Oliver’s Mount over the last cou­ple of sea­sons. Al­ready a TT win­ner in the 2014 Light­weight race, he has been knock­ing at the door of Su­per­sport and Su­per­stock TT glory with reg­u­lar podium fin­ishes. The 28-year-old has set­tled into a com­fort­able groove with Paul Id­don’s Sil­i­cone En­gi­neer­ing Kawasaki squad after a trou­bled 2015 on the Mar-train Yamaha. Har­ri­son has dropped the Su­per­twins class this time around but will line up in all the main TT races on the green and blue Kawasakis.

John­ston’s brilliant 2015 sea­son, when he won races at the North West 200 and Ul­ster Grand Prix, and claimed his maiden TT podium in the Su­per­stock race on the East Coast Rac­ing BMWS, turned to dust last year. In­juries picked up in a crash at the Scar­bor­ough Spring Cup and the death of his fa­ther de­tuned the usu­ally bub­bly Ul­ster­man.

John­ston’s last-minute de­fec­tion from the Jack­son Rac­ing Hon­das he was sched­uled to race to his trusty East Coast Rac­ing BMW stocker and a Padgett’s CBR600RR Honda are an in­di­ca­tion of his de­ter­mi­na­tion to turn that sit­u­a­tion around. The 28-year-old will also ride a Ryan Far­quhar-pre­pared KMR Kawasaki in the Light­weight race. John­ston says noth­ing less than wins will sat­isfy him in 2017.

Win­ners circle

“Any­body who is go­ing to the TT amongst the top ten boys has the po­ten­tial to win,” ex­plains John­ston.

“You have to try to win be­cause even a podium at the TT is an awe­some feel­ing. To ride up the re­turn road and see Paul Phillips stand­ing there wav­ing you into the win­ner’s en­clo­sure is awe­some. You don’t re­alise the amount of ef­fort from the whole squad that goes in to get­ting there.”

Har­ri­son is equally clear about his TT am­bi­tions.

“I want to win on a big bike at the TT, win the Se­nior,” he lays out straight.

“I’d take a win in the stock 1000 race be­cause I’ve been sec­ond twice now in that class. To ride a big bike round there for four or six laps is hard, I don’t care what any­one says. You go off on the first lap think­ing: ‘I’ve got four or six laps’ and you know you are in for it. It’s more men­tally de­stroy­ing than phys­i­cal.”

And the duo’s prime mo­ti­va­tion when they ar­rive on the Is­land?

“It’s the fact that you can’t come back for a whole year to have an­other go,” John­ston laughs. “You do a BSB race or a World Su­per­sport or what­ever and the next week­end you can right a wrong. If you have a s**t TT, a year is a long time. Ev­ery Joe Bloggs you meet in the pub tells you that you had a s**t TT. ‘Yes I know I had a s**t TT, thanks for re­mind­ing me.’ That’s all you hear for a year!”


After the prom­ise shown by a third place fin­ish in the 2015 Su­per­bike TT and a sec­ond in the Se­nior, James Hil­lier’s 2016 TT re­sults failed to im­press. Su­per­sport and Su­per­stock podi­ums plus a run­ner-up slot in the Light­weight TT didn’t make up for the dis­ap­point­ment of fin­ish­ing 11th and 9th in the big bike TTS on the Qu­at­tro Plant Kawasaki ZX-10R.

The 32-year-old will ride a sim­i­lar ma­chine in JG Speed­fit liv­ery in the su­per­bike plus Kawasakis in the Su­per­sport races and the stocker event. He will sit out the Light­weight race, which he won in 2013.

“I feel sharper and it’s def­i­nitely helped do­ing some short cir­cuits be­fore,” he said after fin­ish­ing third in the open­ing Su­per­sport race at the North West. “We’ve been top 10 con­sis­tently here and got a podium. The is­land is ob­vi­ously a lit­tle dif­fer­ent to here, but we’ve got some things to try and I’m feel­ing good.”


Hil­lier has high hopes for his 2017 TT

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