THE LIKELY LADS

En­ter the crazy world of up­com­ing stars Lee John­ston and Dean Har­ri­son

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Contents - By Oli Rushby MCN SPORT RE­PORTER @MCNNEWS mo­tor­cy­cle­news

Road rac­ing has a habit of pro­duc­ing pe­cu­liar char­ac­ters. It’s some­thing that goes hand-in-hand with a mind­set ca­pa­ble of head­ing off down Bray Hill at 190mph.

Lee John­ston and Dean Har­ri­son are typ­i­cal of the breed. Over the last few years these road rac­ing up-and-com­ers have chipped away at the es­tab­lished elite to achieve a flurry of vic­to­ries and podi­ums.

John­ston’s last two sea­sons have been ham­pered by in­jury, but Har­ri­son has gone from strength to strength to es­tab­lish him­self as a front run­ner. The Brad­ford ace stood on the TT podium twice last year be­fore go­ing on to win at Scar­bor­ough, the South­ern 100 and Ul­ster Grand Prix – where he earned the ti­tle of the fastest road racer in the world with an av­er­age lap speed of 134.614mph.

For 2018, Har­ri­son re­mains with the Sil­i­cone En­gi­neer­ing Kawasaki squad with whom he en­joyed so much suc­cess last year, whi le John­ston looks to get back to the front hav­ing signed a deal with the fac­tory Honda Rac­ing out­fit.

MCN caught up with the pair (who, de­spite their ri­valry, re­main close friends) to find out what makes them tick and what we can ex­pect from 2018.

How are you feel­ing?

Dean Har­ri­son I’m fine. I’m a friend down for the sea­son as he doesn’t talk to me any­more. Now he’s a fac­tory Honda rider he doesn’t talk to us ‘av­er­age class peo­ple’.

Lee John­ston How the f*** are you av­er­age class? To be fair, in Brad­ford you are up­per class, aren’t you?

DH My team is good, ev­ery­thing is the same as. We’ve built new bikes but we’ve got the same peo­ple. It’s not quite fac­tory level like Lee but we’re not far off.

LJ Things are go­ing al­right here too! We had a good test in Mon­te­blanco and I’m re­ally lik­ing the Fire­blade. The bike def­i­nitely has po­ten­tial and I’m look­ing for­ward to get­ting out again at Cas­tle Combe in a few weeks.

What is it about road rac­ing that does it for you?

LJ It means you don’t have to go to work!

‘Flat-out at Col­eraine, you can’t help think “‘this is mint!’” LEE JOHN­STON

DH Yep, that’s it. I’m work shy. Well, I’ve done more days’ work than he’s ever done in his life. He once told me that he did a day’s tiling…

Road rac­ing is all I’ve ever done as ob­vi­ously my dad (side­car racer Con­rad – Ed) did it. It’s just nor­mal. I’m not l ike Lee who was a fac­tory World Su­pers­port rider and then down­graded.

LJ I did two World Su­pers­port races and he thinks I’m a World Su­pers­port racer?

DH Yeah, he’s come from World Su­pers­port and worked down­hill, whereas I started at the bot­tom and... well, I guess I’m still at the bot­tom. LJ You never turn up to Don­ing­ton Park and go ‘F***ing hell, I can’t wait to go down Craner Curves, it’s un­be­liev­able’. Whereas you go to the North West and you might hate ev­ery chi­cane, but when you get to go the whole way to Col­eraine ab­so­lutely flat-out you can’t help but think ‘this is mint!’.

DH I don’t dis­like short cir­cuits. I quite like rac­ing in BSB but it’s just not the same.

LJ That’s what does it for the fans. There’s so much ap­pre­ci­a­tion from road race fans be­cause they can’t just go and do a track­day at the North West or TT. You can’t ride around there prop­erly with­out rac­ing it. You can’t set off down Bray Hill flat- out with­out go­ing to get your li­cence first, then get­ting the in­ter­na­tional li­cence, then get­ting an in­vite to race...

F*** knows how we ended up there, but you have to do it all be­fore you can even set off. It’s not like you can just hire the track and ride around. That does it for the fans and it’s the same for us.

DH The best thing is on the first night of prac­tice – whether TT or North West. You set off and there’s no stress. It doesn’t mat­ter how fast you go, you can just go have a roar around.

BSB isn’t like that. You have to be on it from the first lap and ev­ery­one is so up­tight.

Lee, you’ve had some big ones over the last few years – but you keep com­ing back...

LJ I don’t know any dif­fer­ent. When you wake up in hos­pi­tal, your first thought is ‘When am I go­ing to be back on a bike?’

As soon as you’ve crashed you’re work­ing out how to get back and I think if you don’t have that in you then you aren’t a bike racer. Un­til you’ve had a big crash and wanted to come back, keen as mus­tard, you just don’t know how much you want it.

DH I’ve had a few bangs on the head. Screws, pins, plates…

LJ That’s not just road rac­ing ei­ther. Look at Haslam in BSB. Ev­ery crash he has is mas­sive! He never tucks the front, does he? And next ses­sion, or when he’s back from in­jury, he’s never any slower. He’s done that his whole life. He doesn’t know any dif­fer­ent and that has to be part of it, too.

Are the dan­gers and the risks some­thing you think about when rid­ing?

LJ F*** no!

DH You just think about what’s com­ing up next and how you can be faster.

LJ I think that’s maybe what goes through the minds of the peo­ple who aren’t very fast, or don’t get any faster – that’ll be what’s slow­ing them down.

Maybe they’ve got a big­ger brain than us and their brain is telling them to slow the hell down. You only ride to what you’re com­fort­able with and if you’re com­fort­able at 120mph then that’s what their brain is com­fort­able do­ing. You don’t go out, shut your eyes, hold it flat out and see what hap­pens! We aren’t crazy. We’re only do­ing what our brain is let­ting us do.

We’ve got an ig­no­rance, haven’t we… if some­one gets killed. I think it makes you ap­pre­ci­ate death as a whole. If some­one in your fam­ily dies it’s not that it doesn’t bother you, but you just need to crack on.

DH If some­one gets killed the race is never any slower, is it?

LJ No­body ever goes out and says ‘let’s just ride around…’

What makes the TT so spe­cial?

LJ When you win a TT you’re a proper road racer. Un­til you’ve won a TT, you’re like me and just wast­ing tyres and fuel! I’ve won a few North Wests and Ul­sters, but I need to win a TT. DH It’s not just one spe­cific thing. There’s nowhere you’re rid­ing for that long. There’s no lap that long. You’re by your­self and it’s what the whole year re­volves around. It sounds aw­ful, but if you do win the North West, by the time the TT is here no­body is talk­ing about it.

LJ That’s the only down­side to road rac­ing. There should be six or eight big in­ter­na­tion­als be­cause there’s that much pres­sure when you get to the North West it’s the be-all and end-all be­cause it’s only once a year. Then you get to the TT and it’s like ‘I have to do some­thing here’ and then you get to the Ul­ster and it’s the ex­act same.

It’s said by some that road rac­ers race at 90%, that’s bol­locks isn’t it?

LJ I’ll take you around on the back if you want to find out. DH As soon as that flag f lag drops ev­ery­one is out to win and push­ing as hard as they can to do that.

LJ Look at the Clas­sic TT. No­body gives a f*** about it, yet ev­ery­one there is off like f*** as soon as the flag drops. Do­ing 128mph on a shitty ZXR750. How’s that pos­si­ble if you aren’t giv­ing 100%? DH This is our job at the end of the day and if you do shit you don’t get a ride.

What’s the money like?

LJ Shite. We wouldn’t be talk­ing to you if we were rich would we?

DH Do I look like I’ve got loads of money? I started road rac­ing and it cost me money – so in the­ory I was pay­ing to put my­self in harm’s way…

Does get­ting older make you faster or slower?

DH Faster. LJ Def­i­nitely faster.

DH It’s not just like that in road rac­ing ei­ther. Who is the fastest man in BSB? The old­est man. Who is the British Cham­pion? The old­est man. The more you do it, the bet­ter you will get…

‘Road rac­ing cost me money – so I paid to put my­self in harm’s way!’ DEAN HAR­RI­SON ‘When you wake up in hos­pi­tal, my first thought is ‘when can I get back on the bike?’ LEE JOHN­STON

Who is the great­est racer you’ve ever raced against?

LJ Dean Har­ri­son. He’s the fastest man in the world! When he goes out at night and walks into a pub, he ex­pects me to go in first and an­nounce that the fastest road racer in the world is about to walk in...

DH I don’t even know who I’ve raced against!

LJ This prob­a­bly sounds stupid, but Ke­nan So­fuoglu in World Su­pers­port. He’s f***ing im­pres­sive.

DH I’ve rid­den around in BSB so I can’t say I’ve raced with any of those guys, been I’ve been lapped by a few… On the roads I al­ways liked Bruce An­stey.

LJ Bruce is 20 years older than me – 20. It’s un­be­liev­able what he does.

DH I used to watch Bruce as a kid! You know when you fol­low some­one, when you fol­low him and see ‘An­stey’ on his back that’s a good feel­ing.

LJ When any­one else passes you, you’re swear­ing and call­ing them a ****, but when An­stey comes past you go ‘well, fair play Bruce.’

What more can you can you say? He never passes you slow, he doesn’t just leave you enough room. It’s bang – and he’s past. It’s like he’s play­ing a com­puter game. DH Ev­ery pass is like a lunge. He’s so im­pres­sive.

LJ If you put Bruce on Dun­lops and let him ride what he wanted in British Cham­pi­onships, and there was prize money up for grabs, I reckon he’d be up at the front. You can’t have that much skill and not do it. The lean an­gle he car­ries on the roads is in­cred­i­ble, he doesn’t ride like a road racer at all.

What are your ex­pec­ta­tions for 2018?

LJ Dean is go­ing to keep his ti­tle as fastest man in the world!

DH Are you not go­ing to do it on the fac­tory Honda? To be hon­est, I want to go faster than last year but that’ll be a job in it­self.

LJ It’ll be eas­ier for me to go faster than last year, as I had such a shit year, so I’ll say faster than last year. I just have to get through prac­tice week to be hon­est...

For Dean, the hard­est thing is when you have a good year to then have another real good year.

DH Lee will do well at the North West. He’s good at the Ul­ster too, I know he’ll do well at those two. With the TT, I think they’ll get faster. I’m not say­ing he’s not ca­pa­ble of win­ning, but Michael Dun­lop is go­ing to be hard for us all to beat this year.

‘At Bare­gar­row you want to turn left like this – and stick your leg out’ LJ: ‘My beard adds 5mph through the bends...’ DH: ‘Does it f***!’ John­ston flat out ad­mits he ‘needs to win a TT’

Har­ri­son side­ways at Scar­bor­ough (that would make a good ti­tle for his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy)

Lee putting the Fire­blade to the test at Mon­te­blanco

Dean Har­ri­son: The fastest road racer in the world!

It’s all smiles on the stairs, all busi­ness on the track

Har­ri­son with his 2017 TT tro­phy. We’d put money on him win­ning a few more.

Laugh­ing off the in­juries, you need a good sense of hu­mour to be a road racer

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