Lee Johnston will return to the Supertwins class at this year’s Vauxhall International North West 200 to ride a KMR Kawasaki for Ryan Farquhar in the colours of the NI Air Ambulance.
Farquhar was seriously hurt in a crash at the event in 2016 and hasn’t raced since. The 41-year-old was airlifted from the scene and credits his swift conveyance to hospital plus the expert medical treatment he received at the side of the road and at the RVH in Belfast with saving his life.
“This is a charity that’s very close to my heart,” Farquhar told the News Letter at the launch of the North West in Coleraine.
“A helicopter played a part in saving my life and I thought it would be nice to have a bike painted in the NI Air Ambulance colours and have a Northern Ireland rider on the bike as well, so Lee Johnston will be riding it at the North West and TT.
“I want to do all I can to try and promote the service and help to get it up and running and keep it going for many years to come. It’s not just a service for motorbike racing, it’s for everybody in Northern Ireland 365 days a year and it’s a charity that means a lot to me.”
Fermanagh rider Johnston claimed his first international victories when he won both Supertwin races at the North West 200 in 2014 and the 28-year-old is hoping for more of the same in May.
Johnston, who will ride a full stable of Honda Racing machines for the Jackson Racing team this year, said: “Especially with the situation with Ryan last year and the help he received, it means a lot to him and he said that when we were actually doing the deal.
“I’m excited because it’s a big thing for me as a rider to get back on a ’twin and it took a lot of thinking, but I’m genuinely looking forward to it.”
South African Hudson Kennaugh, a NW200 newcomer, will also ride a Supertwin for Farquhar in addition to the Dungannon man’s IEG BMW Superstock bike.
Meanwhile, it was revealed that the feature Vauxhall Superbike race has been brought forward on the Saturday schedule for 2017.
The flagship race will now be the penultimate event on the programme, with the CP Hire Superstock race completing the five-race card on May 13.
Over 1,000 fans attended the ‘Meet the Riders’ event, when guests included John McGuinness, Alastair Seeley, Peter Hickman, Michael Rutter, Ian Hutchinson and Phillip McCallen.