2019 Isle of Man TT
David Johnson Interview
South Australia’s David Johnson had scored a couple of fourth place finishes in previous TT appearances but 2019 marked a breakthrough for the 37-year-old as he raced to a hard fought podium in the Superstock TT.
Johnson was hoping for a repeat performance in Friday’s Senior TT but after an impressive opening lap of 130.98mph, disappointment then struck at the end of lap two when a vibration caused the crank position sensor to fail, shutting down the bike and forcing him to retire. Early in the week he had claimed tenth in the Supersport TT.
We caught up with Davo after the Senior TT to recap his TT week.
Trev: I am with David Johnson here at the TT paddock on Friday, immediately after a disappointing senior TT, but with the glory of a Superstock podium still fresh from Thursday that must be a great reward for some of the pre-season effort and the faith Honda has put in you.
David Johnson: “Today, the Senior TT hasn’t gone so well, but we were looking like we were in a good position there – I think it’s an antipodean thing, we come out of the box quite slow then get fast. It’s no different than what Bruce Anstey does. I think Cam (Donald) is the only one of us who went out and did awesome laps from lap one.
“I always end well though, and it looked like it could possibly have been a podium today as well, while yesterday of course was amazing. On a bike that I didn’t expect it on, the Superstock bike is not known as the fastest thing out of the box but we proved to people that it is highly capable. It handles so well, I could just ride it, the way it handled was amazing, there is never any dramas with the way the stock Honda handles, that’s for sure.
“On the last lap in the Superstock race, when I was in P3 at one point, then P4, then just before the mount’ I saw P4 + 0, and thought who the hell is this I’m dicing with. It turns out its Michael Dunlop. That was only over the line, the last sector I was fourth, come across the line as hard as I could in the last sector, short circuit hard and come out 0.2s in front. Happy to get onto the podium for the first time.”
Trev: I remarked in the Superstock race report (Link), the bike uses less fuel, the team helped make up that three-seconds in the pits to give the team great credence as well, but some people also forget that you lose more than three-seconds a lap with the horsepower deficit to the BMW and Kawasaki. So you still had to do your job with less power out on the circuit. From the sidelines earlier in the week I could see that Michael Dunlop could make 20 metres or more on you over 400 metres as soon as the bikes were upright, pulling 20 metres over a 400 metre straight – when the tracks over 60,000 metres that certainly adds up over a full lap…
David Johnson: “Yea, Sulby Straight I think we were at our worst, against whoever was fastest, 15 mph down, which is a lot, a friggen hell of a lot. Yea so I sorta had no idea who I was dicing with, I thought it was actually going to be James Hillier, but obviously he had a 30s penalty, which didn’t come into the equation, as even with that penalty off we still beat him by 6s, but it was Dunlop I was fighting with.
“The last sector is obviously where the Honda is going to be awesome, as it’s quite a tight little section, slow and tight, which is why I can push without risking too much. Just to come out by 0.2 of a second is… some people, the way they were following it, they were saying it was the battle of the TT.”
Trev: It was only a race for third to be fair right from the start, Hicky and Harrison were in another league last year, and it proved the same again this year, that pair are going to be hard to beat.
David Johnson: “They’ve changed the bar for this whole situation really, Hicky was behind me starting, I was ninth on the road, and he was 10th, so when he caught me and he caught me quite early in the lap, and then starts pulling away, I was like oh my god, this is ridiculous, to push like that.
“The way they are pushing to get what they do, it’s changed a lot. That’s how hard you have to win, those two have changed the bar. Dunlop has won 19 TTs all together and in a big bike TT you have to push absolutely, like say short circuit you push 100 per cent, to win a TT these days that’s what it takes… I would if I felt comfortable on the bike, but with the short practice that we’ve had and me being new to Honda, I just didn’t quite feel that comfortable to go out of the box and push like mad right from the off.
“Whereas especially the first couple of laps, is where you make it all up and get comfortable with the bike, you push like mad in the first two laps and the rest comes to you. Whereas I’m still building up speed…”
Trev: Third, that’s probably fulfilling your ultimate potential that you would have looked at coming into the race. Are the team happy, does that mean you’ll be on a Fireblade next year and they’ll pay you more money? (laughs)
David Johnson: “Maybe, we’ve not spoken about that, I’m happy with them and they are happy with me. Especially in Superstock, they didn’t expect that at all. The Superbike is a fair weapon, so we expected to be somewhere near in that, and we were close, we thought we had the potential to be on the podium today in the Senior, unfortunately the bike let us down with an electronics problem.
“On the Superstock bike it was a long shot, the Superbike was the one I expected to be on the podium in, and then all of a sudden I’m on the podium in Superstock. I’ve won BSB championship races in Superstock, so I knew I was going to be good on it, but had no idea, never expected to be on the podium this year like that in the Superstock class.”
Trev: We don’t hear outside of the TT anything that you’re up to. How have you got yourself up to speed, and your head up to speed?
David Johnson: “Well the Island Classic, Phillip Island, that’s my main preparation, they ride like mad out there. To be honest, I didn’t do any British Championship races this year, which I usually do. I know if I go into Superstock race I can be at the front. But this year we didn’t do that, for whatever reason.”
Trev: Might there be any opportunities for you to get any short circuit work in the latter part of the year?
David Johnson: “There is, that’s all down to me now. I’m 37-years-old now and I’ve got my fiancee and we’re from Adelaide, and I like to spend all my time in Adelaide now. I’ve been here for 18 years now, in Europe.
Trev: It’s a long time ago you left the Aussie domestic competition…
David Johnson: “I remember I was excited when you did a little write up on me in my first year, in 2002…”
Trev: So we’re both getting old.
David Johnson: “I guess so! I do what I need to do to keep doing it. I do a heap of track days, Levi Day race schools, my own race schools here and there as well, and the Champion Rides days, so I do a lot of riding. I do the James Whitham schools when I’m here and the Focus Events around Europe. So I do a lot of riding but that doesn’t really reflect when you’re pushing hard from the get go, like mad.”
Trev: So if you got any short circuit work in this year, would it be back in Australia or in the UK?
David Johnson: “I’ve never really had the opportunity in Australia, they never come up, I would love to do it, with Honda if they had a spare bike and it was offered, I’d jump on it. But because I’ve never had the offers, I’ve never done it. And to be competitive you need to be on a good bike and team to be in Australia, in Australia the riders are world class.”
Trev: It’s very tight, one turn of a clicker between hero and zero really it is that close.
David Johnson: “It’s no different than going to BSB, if you’re on a crap bike in BSB you won’t be competitive. In Australia it’s the same thing and I don’t want to do it half arsed. If I do it, it has to be properly. But I don’t know, I’ll suss it out. It feels like the end of the season for me now, so we’ll have a big night tonight and move forward from here.”
Trev: So just see what crops up in the latter half or 2019 and will there be any more real road racing for you? Anything lined up for the Classic TT?
David Johnson: “Yes, I’m racing with the Kawasaki team in the Classic TT, I’m not really allowed to say that around here! But yea the Kawasaki team for that. Ulster GP as well, it’s not in my contract but I know Honda will want me to do it and I love the Ulster GP, I got a podium last year with the Tyco BMW team and it’s a good place. A love-hate relationship. I broke my back there and spent a month in Belfast hospital but I want to do that again. And the Macau GP at the end of the year, so I have a few big international races to do.
Trev: Who’s Macau with?
David Johnson: “Not sure yet, that’s to be confirmed, to be announced, actually I don’t even know yet. I’ve had about 17,000 offers so far, so it’s wait and see.”
Trev: It’s nice to be wanted mate.
David Johnson: “It’s better to be wanted than no one gives a shit, so we’ll wait and see.”
Trev: Celebrate a safe and successful week, we’ll see you in due course.
David Johnson: “I’ll see you at the bar later mate!”