By Barry Russell
Gary Johnson earned himself some holiday money at the weekend, by scoring first and second place finishes in the final two rounds of the MotorCycle Mag Thailand Superbike championship at Bira International Circuit.
Undeterred by being unable to find a modern 1000cc machine to compete on, the Lincolnshire born TT winner borrowed and prepared a friend's 2006 Suzuki GSX-R750 and qualified third behind championship rivals, Panadda Racing's 'Tingnote' Titipong Warakorn and Elf Smart Honda's'Stamp' Apiwat Wongthananon.
In the first race on Christmas Eve Johnson slotted into second place behind Tingnote from the start and used superior corner speed and experience to overcome his power deficit and push his way into the lead on the lap three.
Tingnote was unable to match his pace and fell back before retiring with a broken gearbox with two laps remaining. Stamp finished second to move into the lead in the championship ahead of Canadian rookie sensation, Colin Butler, who finished third on the road and took the rookie class victory.
Butler was 1.5 seconds in front of multiple Thai champion and Stamp's team manager, 'Superbird' Saen Choisak, 'The Bell' Aekkachai Siengwong and Englishman Luke Stokes, a close rival of Butler, who finished second in the rookie class, despite suffering badly with arm pump.
The second race on Christmas Day saw Tingnote relegated to the back of the grid after changing his bike.
However, Karma seemed to lend a hand at the second corner, when Stamp, having got the hole-shot, braked early, causing Johnson to run off and rejoin in last place. In the ensuing confusion, Tingnote got through into the lead and immediately pulled a gap on the chasing pack.
The crowd were then treated to the sight of a determined Johnson carving his way through the 17 man field to take second place, 11 seconds behind an imperious Tingnote and 2.5 seconds ahead of Superbird, who benefitted from his own team orders, which obliged Stamp, who had enough in the bag to take the championship, to let his boss through to take third place on the last lap.
Butler, who, like Stokes had been promoted to the professional class on the basis of the previous day's lap times, took fifth place just behind the Elf Smart Honda duo, while Stokes was seventh and clearly in pain with his arm problem.
Reflecting on his lively Christmas, Johnson said, “It's been a fun weekend, though the bike was a long way off where I needed it to be and I had to work hard to get the results, especially in the second race. I changed the gearing to make it easier to ride on Sunday, but running off at turn two left me a lot to do.