Having ridden Kawasaki machinery for the last two years, Gary Johnson will be back on a BMW for this year’s Macau Grand Prix having recently joined forces with Lee Johnston at Ashcourt Racing.
But he admits it could be a challenging week in the far east this time around having had little track time on the carbon-fibre S1000RR.
The Lincolnshire rider has a superb record around the 3.8-mile Guia circuit though, one of the best in the entry, and has finished in the top six every year bar one since 2009, the only exception coming three years ago when he was forced to retire.
He’s looking for more of the same this year although the lack of track time is something he’s aware of.
“I’m really looking forward to being back at Macau but it’s going to be quite a challenge this year as I haven’t ridden the BMW an awful lot,” Johnson told bikesportnews.dom
“We were due to have a three-day test at Croft but the English weather scuppered that and two days were completely wiped out by the rain. However, on the one good, dry day, we made good progression and I felt really comfortable on the bike and with the team giving me a free rein in the direction I wanted to go in with the set up, I was able to set some competitive lap times.
I did quite a bit of research about the bike but the lightness of it really came as a surprise - I know from what Lee had told me when he rode it that it was light with all the carbon fibre on it but I wasn’t expecting it to be as light as it was, it felt like a 250cc Grand Prix bike! It’s a very technical bike and has a lot of adjustability whilst it looks amazing. I have a lot of arms and legs to get rid of when I’m on a bike but it fits me really well.”
With nine top six finishes, including a best of third in 2013, Johnson is again expected to figure in that group this year although he’s mindful of both the challenge he has with the bike - ‘the lightness may come into play over the bumps’ - and with the opposition.
“You’re never going to get a perfect race bike for the roads and I know the BMW will work really good in some areas and not so good in others but my main aim is to utilise the track time in practice and qualifying and make the bike as easy to ride as possible. I need to maximise its potential so that it’s strong for 12 laps and not just one.
“There’s a really good line up this year and whoever finishes on the podium will have earned it. Peter’s on his regular BSB bike, Michael’s improving all the time on the RCV and Hutchy’s on a WSB-spec BMW so we all know what those three are capable of. McGuinness is on a good bike too although I’m sure he would have liked to have had a test on it beforehand.
“Lee and Davo are both riding well and I think the trio of Johnston, Johnson and Johnson will all be there or thereabouts. There’s good depth in the top ten so I need to pull my finger out and make sure I have a good first practice session so I’m in the mix and not having to play catch up.”