Ashcourt Racing’s Lee Johnston became just the third rider from Northern Ireland to win the prestigious Steve Henshaw International Gold Cup at Oliver’s Mount, Scarborough when he took victory in Sunday’s race at the North Yorkshire venue.
First held in 1950, Johnston followed in the footsteps of road racing greats who have previously lifted the famous trophy including Geoff Duke, Giacomo Agostini, Phil Read, Barry Sheene and Carl Fogarty and Northern Ireland’s Ryan Farquhar and Michael Dunlop who won in 2011 and 2013 respectively.
Held in wet and misty conditions on Sunday afternoon, which threatened to curtail the racing at the 2.43-mile woodland circuit, Johnston started the eight-lap race from pole position on the Ashcourt Racing Yamaha YZF-R6 and immediately grabbed the lead on the opening lap.
Despite the treacherous conditions, Johnston served up a faultless wet weather master class and with a succession of fastest laps, the 30-year old was able to keep nearest rival Mike Norbury at bay, eventually taking the chequered flag by 2.99s.
Victory for Johnston completed a superb domestic season on the roads after taking victories earlier in the season in the Supersport races at both the Isle of Man TT and North West 200 as well three podiums in the same class at the Ulster Grand Prix.
The win followed on from his success in Saturday’s eight-lap Supersport 600cc race which was held in the vastly different conditions of warm sunshine. Initially in third place position, Lee made his move just before half race distance when he overhauled the fast-starting Norbury and David Jackson.
With the fastest lap of the race, 1m50.766s, more than half a second quicker than anyone else, Johnston was able to ease off on the eighth and final lap to take victory by 1.6s from Norbury.
Johnston also took second in Saturday’s Classic Superbike race, which was also held over eight laps after starting from the back of the grid on Phil Reed’s RC45 Honda and overhauling 20 riders!
By the time he’d moved up to second, David Bell had opened up an unassailable lead although he did have the consolation of setting the fastest lap of the race some three seconds quicker than race winner Bell.
“It’s obviously a real pleasure to win the International Gold Cup and when you look at some of the riders who’ve won it before, I’m in some good company,” said Johnston.
“I never realised only Ryan and Michael had won it before from Northern Ireland so be just the third rider to win it is something to be proud of. Conditions were far from ideal but I managed to get the lead off the line and build up a bit of a gap which I was able to control after that.”
“We were actually doing some pretty good lap times given how wet it was but the bike was working really well and the team did a mega job all weekend.
“It was nice to get a win on the Yamaha in both the wet and the dry and I also really enjoyed the race on the RC45 as it’s such a lovely bike to ride. Despite the weather on Sunday, it was a very enjoyable meeting and it’s nice to end the domestic season with another International win so a big thanks to the entire Ashcourt Racing team for everything throughout 2019.”