Johnson Snares IOM Okells 350cc Victory
ISLE OF MAN – Black Eagle Racing rider Lee Johnson, riding an MV Agusta, obliterated the lap record for the 350cc class to take a stunning win in the shortened 3-lap Okells 350cc Classic TT Race on the Isle of Man Monday.
The win was the first MV Mountain Course victory since Giacomo Agostini’s double in the 1972 TT meeting. The Northern Ireland rider enjoyed a sensational race, winning by forty-five seconds from Davies Motorsport Honda rider Alan Oversby.
Northern Ireland rider Jamie Hamilton, riding the Rutter Honda was first away from Glencrutchery Road shortly after the scheduled start, followed by Saturday’s Bennetts 500cc race winner Ian Lougher on the Geoff Bates prepared Drixon Honda that Chris Palmer rode to victory in last year’s race.
Lougher was ahead of Hamilton by the first checkpoint but William Dunlop was the fastest to Glen Helen on the opening lap from Davies Motorsport teammate Alan Oversby, who made a stunning start from 14th on the grid to be only .09 of a second behind Dunlop. Oversby was the fastest qualifier, with an unofficial lap record of 102.707, which he set in Tuesday’s qualifying session.
Roy Richardson on the FCL Racing /Martin Bullock Aermacchi was third by the first checkpoint with Lougher and Lee Johnson, riding the Black Eagle Racing MV completed the top five.
Oversby moved ahead of Dunlop by Ballaugh, but only by .25 seconds. Dunlop, was first back to the Grandstand and smashed Palmer’s old lap record, clocking 103.045mph on the opening lap but it was short-lived with Oversby posting an opening lap 103.624 (21:50.781) to lead by 7 seconds. Lee Johnson (102.859) and Roy Richardson (101.889) were also inside the old lap record on the opening lap.
Early retirements on the opening lap included Chris McGahan at Union Mills and Mark Herbertson while Connor Behan was also stopped at Douglas Road Corner, eventually retiring at Parliament Square. Michael Dunlop retired in the pits at lap one when running 11th and James Hillier retired at Governors with a broken chain.
Johnson was on a charge on the MV on the second lap and moved into second place behind Oversby at Glen Helen, and by Ramsey had reduced the deficit to only 2.3 seconds. Johnson hit the front, leading by only 0.5 seconds at the Bungalow and, despite Manx Radio’s Roy Moore speculating that Johnson would pit for fuel at the end of the second lap, the Northern Ireland rider went straight through the Grandstand, obliterating the lap record in the process with a lap of 105.239 (21:30.66).
With Dunlop reported as retiring at Douglas Road Corner on the last lap, Roy Richardson moved into the top three but all eyes were on the front as Johnson completed the victory with a final lap of 104.331 and an overall race time of 1:05.13.084 (104.134).
Johnston later revealed to Manx Radio in the winner’s enclosure that the bike had been misfiring on the opening lap and he considered retiring but with the bike clearing he was able to chase down the leaders.
Tom Jackson, on the T20 Suzuki, was awarded the Phil Read Classic TT Trophy as the first 250cc machine, finishing in 20th, while Roy Richardson took the Geoff Duke trophy as the highest placed single cylinder 350 machine in the race. Phil McGurk, in 7th place, was the first privateer while Doug Snow was the first P1 (single cylinder) privateer in 8th.