2013 was another strong season on the roads for Gary Johnson as he achieved the unique feat of recording podiums at the Isle of Man TT, North West 200, Ulster Grand Prix and Macau Grand Prix in the same year. The latter result was his first time on the box at the Far East venue whilst, arguably, no-one pushed Michael Dunlop harder at the TT than the Lincolnshire rider with only an oil leak on the final lap of the Superstock race denying him his second win around the Mountain Course.
2014 looks set to follow a similar pattern as he again takes on the factory boys with his privately-run Lincs Lifting Ltd/Chapman Racing team whilst a move to an as yet un-named new Supersport team should reap further rewards.Looking back at the 2013 season, were you happy with what you achieved?
Yeah, really happy. Sure, we had a few niggling, mechanical issues here and there but that’s to be expected with a new team and new bikes so overall, I was happy with myself and with what I’d done. I was riding really well, the lap times were good and I was up at the front everywhere I went. I led races and had the raw speed and I think I showed that when everything was working well, I was a contender. We’re only a small team, it’s pretty much just Spider, my mechanic, and I preparing everything with a couple of extra hands at race weekends so we got caught out a bit with the bikes. We were continually refining the bits that had let us down though and even at Macau, the Superbike was still being tweaked. All things considered, I think we did a good job getting the results we did and with the budget we had.The Superstock class gave you your best results, why do you think that was?
Everyone knows the Kawasaki’s a good Superstock bike, certainly on the short circuits, and I set myself a good testing schedule at the beginning of the year to get as used to it as much as possible. You’re obviously limited with what you can do to the bike but obviously the class is as close to a level playing field as you’re likely to get. I had more issues with the Superbike, particularly with the fuel pump, but we couldn’t get the bits that we wanted, when we wanted them, whereas the Stocker was pretty much tried and tested. It wasn’t quite 100% but I was still at the sharp end at all three of the Internationals.If it wasn’t for the oil leak, do you think you could’ve beaten Michael Dunlop in the Superstock TT?
That’s a million dollar question Phil and is the whole could have, would have, should have!!! I really don’t know. The crank was breathing hard, leaking oil and we should have had a small catch tank on board but it’s one of those things that you don’t find out about until they happen. It can be easily fixed though and I’m confident we won’t have the same issues in 2014. You can’t take anything away from Michael as it was an awesome final lap but had it gone all the way, it would have been close. We’ll answer the question in this year’s race (smiling).How competitive is the TT now, and road racing in general, compared to when you first got on the podium in 2009?
That’s hard to say really. Back then, I was very much the new kid on the block and all the other riders were established, big names to me. I was just getting on with learning my trade so didn’t really think too much about what was going on around me. The competitions relevant to the year and people have their ups and downs along the way whether it’s with teams or machinery. The one constant is that John McGuinness is always the man to beat and he seems to have a different challenger each year – as one rider steps up to the plate, another steps down. The strength in depth has never been as strong as it is now though and whilst the speeds haven’t moved on that much, more people are doing them now. The top six are closer together and whereas before you could have an off day and still get a good result, if that happens now you’re going to be a lot further down the field.You gained considerable publicity with the Supersport MV but results were relatively disappointing – did it go as you expected in or were you hoping for more?
Obviously, I was hoping for more and it was disappointing that I couldn’t challenge but we were up against it all year. It was no-one’s fault at all and it was a pleasure working with Jack and the team – they bent over backwards throughout - but the timeframe was against us. I only had a handful of laps at Mallory prior to the North West 200 so it was tough. A new bike will always present new issues and the bike was getting stronger all year but the timescale was too short to get a really competitive package. At the same time, I think we did a good job with what we had and to lap at 124mph at the TT, finishing only half a second behind Guy Martin, was a good achievement for all of us.What’s the plan for 2014 in the Supersport class, will you be staying with MV or moving to a new team?
Like I say, the MV’s getting stronger all the time and it’s an awesome bit of kit which I believe, given the time and resources, has the potential to be right up there. I really believe in the project and have told Jack I’m available to test at any time so he’s going to go away and spend time in the workshop making sure that when they come back everything will be spot on. As a result, I won’t be racing the MV this year and have agreed a deal with a team which should be announced towards the end of March. I can’t say too much at the moment but I’m really excited about the deal, the bike and the team and am confident I’ll be challenging for the race wins. I’ll have had something like 16 days testing before we get to the North West so the bike will fit me like a glove. If we need anything, the team will have it there at our disposal and it should be a real weapon.You’re clearly established as a potential race winner at all of the International road races but where can you improve?
Course knowledge is obviously the main one as you never stop learning and can always improve. W