Oct 16, 2016
Ballymena’s Luke Johnston has lifted the sixth and final nomination for the inaugural Masters Superbike Championship ‘Young Rider of the Year’ award. Johnston sealed his spot in the competition final with a mature ride at the last event of the season which saw him lift the 2016 Supersport title.
Created by Mondello Park and backed by circuit owner Martin Birrane, along with Dawn International, AJ Plumbing Supplies, Pat Duke and Oxford products, the Young Rider award is the first of its kind to be offered to Irish Motorcycle Racing competitors. The competition will culminate in a shoot-out between the six nominees chosen over the course of the six 2016 Masters events. Nominees for the award are all under twenty three years old and have been chosen from a variety of classes racing on the Masters Superbike programme.
Luke Johnston has been competing in the Masters since 2012, and was the Supersport ‘Cup’ champion in his rookie year. Following a couple of seasons which were interrupted by Injuries, he returned to the series full time in 2015 and built on his success in that season to improve further in 2016 and take his first outright Masters victories. A mid-season run of five podiums in a row, including two wins, set him up for a title challenge and he entered the final event battling for the crown with Richie Ryan.
The initiative swung towards Johnston in qualifying, where he set the fastest lap, to line up on pole for race one. With just Ryan to worry about Johnston did not push too hard and allowed Jason Lynn to move ahead of him into the lead. The youngster was then caught and passed by Ryan who he chased for the remainder of the race, coming home third and keeping one hand on the trophy. Johnston went into race two knowing that he once again only had to keep an eye on Ryan and with his rival dropping back early on he converted seventh on the grid into fourth place to increase his series lead.
Lining up on pole again for race three Johnston needed only to finish in the top ten to secure his first Masters overall title and the second Masters crown of his career. In his effort to ensure he finished, the Ballymena rider stayed out of trouble, rode a mature race and came across the line fourth, to the delight of his small family run team. To top his weekend off the speed and maturity demonstrated by Johnston secured him the sixth and final Young Rider nomination.
Speaking on hearing of his nomination Johnston said “It’s fantastic to be the final nominee for the award. I watched all the other riders who were nominated and knew that I would probably need to win the championship at the final round to join them. The Masters is already the premier series in Ireland and the addition of this award has been fantastic. I’d like to thank Mondello Park, the competition sponsors and the judges who voted for me although I don’t know who they are. I’m really looking forward to the final now and hope I can do my family, sponsors and supporters proud”.
Johnston joins Robert English, Aaron Clifford, Rhys Irwin, Aaron Armstrong and Jason Lynn in the hunt for the inaugural Young Motorcycle Racer of the Year award. The date and format for the final of the competition will be confirmed shortly.
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