He took an enduro bike to win two national motocross titles.
The 35-year-old father-of-two had assembled his Husqvarna FE350 enduro bike just two days before the weekend’s racing at the 2021 New Zealand MX TT Nationals at Taupiri, and certainly didn’t arrive at the North Waikato venue with any great expectations of winning anything at the Kawasaki-sponsored event. He reckons he was “just there for a good time”.
What was even more remarkable was that Johnston had taken the bike out of the workshop of his Inglewood business and, with the 2021-model demo bike barely run in, he entered himself in the premier MX1 class at Taupiri.
He knew what was in store for him and his untested new machine, a couple of brutal days of racing against some of the country’s most experienced 450cc bike racers – from the motocross, cross-country, enduro scenes and even from the road-racing community as well.
The racing was tight – Rotorua enduro and cross-country ace Ethan Harris had been on top of the MX1 class standings, but just one point clear of Johnston, as the riders lined up for the final MX1 class race of the weekend.
Whomever finished in front of the other in this final showdown would take the glory.
In the end, Johnston finished his weekend with an impressive race victory, his 2-1-4-3-1 score-card in the five MX1 class races giving him the title by six points from Harris, who had suffered his worst result of the weekend, a fourth, in that fateful final race.
Another Rotorua rider, Callum Dudson, rounded out the MX1 podium in third overall.
“I had ridden the same model bike before, so it wasn’t as if I didn’t know what the bike was like to ride or what it was capable of,” said the modest Johnston.
A glutton for punishment, Johnston had also entered with the same bike into the veterans’ 35-44 years’ class, therefore giving his body and his bike double the gruelling workout endured by many of his rivals.
Johnston won this class too, finishing three points clear of renowned Huntly cross-country racing exponent Michael Vining, Johnston therefore achieving two New Zealand title wins in the same weekend.
Other class winners at the weekend were Te Aroha’s Luke van der Lee (MX2 class); Auckland’s Damon Nield (senior 125cc class); New Plymouth’s Mitch Rowe (veterans’ over-45 years and the Classic pre-1996 bikes class); Hamilton’s Mikayla Rowe (women’s class and the Classic Pre-2002 bikes class); Rotorua’s Ticayla Manson (junior women’s 12-16 years’ 150cc & 250cc class); Waimauku’s Ruby Leach (junior women’s 8-16 years’ 85cc and 150cc class); New Plymouth’s Shane Smith (clubmans MX3 class); Te Awamutu’s Jack Carmichael (junior 14-16 years’, 250cc); Waihi’s Luke Maitland (junior 12-16 years’, 125cc); Hamilton’s Carson Mackie (junior 12-16 years’, 85cc); Wairoa’s Connor Cavaney (mini 65cc class) and Helensville’s Adam Bockett (mini 50cc class).
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
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