By Barry Russell
With the BSB season over, Gary Johnson headed off to Kirkistown last week to begin his preparations for next month's Macau Grand Prix, which he will contest on an IGT liveried TAS Suzuki.
It was an extensive shakedown to get the Lincolnshire rider comfortable and familiar with the bike before the Far Eastern season closer.
Johnson had initially agreed to ride John Hopkins's Crescent Suzuki at Macau, but the team's subsequent withdrawal put him back on the market.
“I've had some brilliant offers, but this is an even better option than Crescent because TAS know Macau and already have data,” he explained. “I've been quick around Macau on a bike that couldn't get the power down coming out of the slower corners, so I'm looking forward to the job this year on a bike that is capable of winning.”
While the Johnson is normally seen on Hondas and took his maiden TT victory on the East Coast Racing Supersport 600 in June, he knows his way around the Guia street circuit on a Suzuki. He has threatened the podium for the last two years on the wallowing AIM Racing machines so will arrive at Macau as one of the favourites.
Despite the absence of injured three-times winner Stuart Easton, Johnson faces a field full of road racing's biggest stars, including John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, Bruce Anstey, Conor Cummins, Ian Hutchinson, the Dunlop brothers and American Jeremy Toye, who surprised many by taking third place last year.
The Honda that Johnson rode to third place in this year's Superbike TT will be ridden by Irishman Stephen Thompson, who will line up as McGuinness's SMT teammate.