Lee Johnston clinched his first Supersport victory at the North West 200 in dramatic fashion on Thursday evening as Alastair Seeley crashed out on the final lap.
Johnston (Ashcourt Yamaha), Seeley (EHA Yamaha), Dean Harrison (Silicone Kawasaki), James Hillier (Quattro Plant Kawasaki) and Paul Jordan (Logan Yamaha) were involved in a thrilling five-way scrap in the spring sunshine around the 8.9-mile course.
The lead changed hands throughout, with Johnston and Seeley enjoying the lion’s share at the head of the pack.
Magherafelt man Jordan was riding a fantastic race as he held a watching brief in fifth place, but there was bitter disappointment for the Ulsterman when he was forced out at Mill Road roundabout on the penultimate lap.
Michael Dunlop, who had dropped off the leading group on his MD Racing Honda, was promoted to fifth place.
As the leading quartet battled it out, Johnston led over the line at the start of the sixth and final lap from Seeley, Harrison and Hillier.
Carrick man Seeley, a 12-time winner in the class, was ahead at Ballysally roundabout but Johnston had edged back into the lead by the time they reached Metropole in Portrush, with Hillier and Harrison in close company.
Seeley began to line up his move on the Coast Road and drew alongside Johnston as they braked for Juniper Hill chicane, but the 39-year-old went in slightly hot and ran wide onto the grass, crashing out of contention.
Johnston held on to win by 0.7s from Harrison, with Hillier rounding out the top three.
“It’s so hard racing with Alastair because you never know what he’s doing, if he’s sandbagging or what, and I’m so comfortable riding with Dean and James around the TT and everything,” Johnston said.
“I was having a little look to see who was there and I knew nobody was going to be making any lunges and we could actually go for a good race, so all credit to the Ashcourt Racing team because they have put in a massive effort. This is a new bike built for the roads with a new motor so I had to win it really.
“(Alastair) ran in a bit hot but I didn’t know he had gone down until the end. I was so miserable earlier because I had a bad qualifying on the Superbike so it’s good to get a win.”
Published: Friday 17 May 2019