As Gary Johnson raced home 1.5 seconds ahead of his closest rival in the Isle of Man TT Monster Energy Supersport Race 1, it was the culmination of a successful four-year relationship with Triumph.
He gave the Hinckley marque its first TT success since Bruce Anstey’s victory in 2003, leading from the start and holding his nerve despite a stirring last lap fightback from Anstey himself in wet conditions. The win meant a first TT race success for Gloucestershire-based Smiths Triumph, who also had Michael Rutter riding a Daytona 675R. Rutter scored a top ten finish, crossing the line around four seconds later…
Sadly Gary was unable to go for the double in Race 2, after breaking his collarbone and cracking a vertebrae in the Superstock Race. All at FTR and Triumph wish him a speedy and healthy recovery and look forward to welcoming him, the Smiths team, and the Trophy to the factory later this year. Spirit caught up with triumphant team manager Rebecca Smith, to find out what it took to win at the most demanding road race on earth.
Q. Congratulations. You’ve been around the British Supersports scene since 2010, but this was your first outing at the Isle of Man TT. Why the delay?
A. My father and I never really had an ambition to go to the Isle of Man TT. The team started by default when some lads we were sponsoring had their support withdrawn midway through a season – the rest is history! After our Championship victory in 2012, we were approached by many high-calibre riders to build Supersport bikes for the TT. It was only this year we felt ready and able to enter.Given the dangerous nature of the event it was crucial to us that we took experienced riders, and they were great in the organisation too.The organisers of the TT were absolutely fantastic and for an event as big as this one there wasn’t one person unwilling or unable to help with any issues we encountered along the way.
Our relationship with Triumph has continued to progress and this is our second year as the Official Factory Team.Gary Johnson
Q. Has the experience given you a taste for a return?
A. Certainly. Paul Phillips and his team have done such a fantastic job with this event and made our debut very pleasurable. The road-racing scene is something very special and they do a great job of capturing all that in a great experience. Obviously, to take the win on our first ever TT race is amazing and we'd all love to experience that winning feeling again and again.
Q. How did the link-up with Triumph come about and what does it mean in terms of being competitive?
A. Our association with Triumph began in 2010. Since then, we’ve been running the Triumph Daytona 675R in the British Supersport… it’s the most competitive bike out there.
Q. Tell us a little about the preparation needed for a race like the Isle of Man. How many months is the lead-up and what work has to be done?
A. We’ve been preparing road bikes ordered from Triumph since before Christmas. First we converted them to race bikes by replacing handlebars, fork internals, radiators, tuning the engines, bodywork, dash, software and adding many other bits. We had to make race bikes suitable to be tested to high speeds – for example, putting mesh guards in front of the radiators to prevent stone damage.
Q. How much testing did you do on the bikes and where?
A. We hired the Guadix Circuit in the south of Spain. We took all four bikes (British Supersport and TT) and had a big shakedown. We also competed at the NW200 where we found some problems that we rectified. Gary finished on the podium and our other rider, Michael Rutter, posted two solid results.
Q. How did you go about choosing the riders?
A. Our association with Gary came about via Tim Seed, our Electronics Engineer, and Jason Jones, our Head Engineer, has worked with Michael Rutter previously. We have been speaking to Michael for a number of years and he was actually one of the people who convinced us to enter the TT and build him a 600cc bike.Both riders are experienced, conduct themselves professionally and are competitive, potential podium finishers. Importantly, they both also understand all the risks involved.