Northern Ireland motorcycle racer Lee Johnston says becoming a father has helped him relax away from racing and given him a new perspective on life.
Isle of Man TT rider Johnston’s partner Christie recently gave birth to Jesse.
“Having a baby son has helped me to mentally relax and realise that while I’m still hungry to ride a motorbike, racing is not the only thing that matters,” said the 29-year-old.
“That’s maybe why you see so many dads come good. They’re just chilled out.”
“Previously my schedule was totally centred around myself but now you have to do things with Jesse and give Christie a break,” added the Fermanagh rider.
“We get sucked into this little goldfish bowl of racing but there’s still a whole big world out there.”
Johnston is a three-time winner at both the other major international road racing events, the North West 200 and the Ulster Grand Prix, but has yet to taste victory at the TT, although he took two rostrum finishes in 2015.
This year he is part of the official factory Honda Racing set-up and is keen to put behind him a couple of seasons punctuated by injuries, including a crash at Greeba Castle in practice for last year’s event on the Isle of Man.
The Halifax-based rider sustained back, tailbone and finger fractures after coming off his Supersport bike but was back in race action a couple of months later.
“I never thought about quitting. People maybe think you are selfish to keep going but Christie would never dream of asking me to stop – she knows it’s my job.
“Hopefully I can have a long career and come out the other side and do something else as I have loads of interests and I’m only 29 years old.
“I’d like to race until I’m at least in my mid to late 30s and then see what I want to do after that.”
Two third-place finishes and a couple of fourths at this year’s North West 200 indicate that fatherhood is agreeing with the former British Superstock 600 champion as he continues his bid for a first TT win over the Mountain Course.
“Having a baby about doesn’t change your riding but it certainly changes your attitude towards life. I know I come across as quite laid back but every bike rider is selfish,” he added.
“Now when you get away from riding the bike you can just switch off and do something else – the baby just distracts you.
“You can be holding a conversation with someone and still be thinking about motorbike racing, whereas Jesse couldn’t care less about what I do at the TT.
“He just wants his bottle and his nappy changing. You just completely zone out.”
Johnston will compete in the Superbike, Superstock, Supersport and Senior events at the IOM TT.
Source RST Road to the TT and BBC Sport