Published April 15, 2015
Written by: Ulster Grand Prix
Broughton racer Gary Johnson has rightfully earned his place as one of the leading competitors on the roads, despite only making his debut in 2007.
Part 1 – Using your head
He was rapid from the off and quickly established himself as one of the sport’s leading riders, landing the 2011 TT Supersport title on the East Coast Construction Honda.
He followed that up with a second success last year, winning the first Supersport race at the 2014 TT on the Smiths Triumph Racing Team’s 675R, giving the Shropshire-based outfit a TT debut to remember.
He suffered an off just a day after his second TT Victory when he lost control of his Lincs Lifting Kawasaki in the Superstock TT on the climb out of Ramsey, breaking his collarbone, vertebrae and several bones in his hand.
After spending his career riding between the hedges and armco he knows what kit works, and what doesn’t. Here he shares his hard earned wisdom on the equipment he uses.
“I’d always been an Arai man – I’ve been wearing them since I started moto crossing when I was seven years old so it took a lot for me to move to another brand, but after talking to Bell my mind was made up.
“They’re investing a huge amount in technology and it seemed like a good opportunity to be part of something exciting. It’s got nothing to do with money, for me it was a decision based purely on quality.
“They started off by flying me to the states and scanning my head and then built my helmet around my head, creating a uniquely snug fit.
“The results of the scan are amazing – the helmet fits me like nothing else I’ve worn. They use a typical carbon shell, the same materials as other manufacturers, but increase the amount of high density protection foam, which is crucial for protecting your head in an off.
“Other brilliant features of the Bell are its stability at speed, so you don’t get fatigued, the field of vision and the clarity of vision on offer and just how quiet it is. I love my helmets to be quiet, the quieter the better as far as I’m concerned, and this is excellent.
“It’s this attention to detail and the amount of time and money they’re prepared to spend at developing new technologies that makes this co-operation exciting.
“The crash in the Tuesday Superstock race at the 2014 TT was by far the biggest crash I’ve had and easily the hardest I’ve ever hit my head.
“I lost the front at 120mph when I hit a small damp patch, tipping in at Tower Bends near the Ramsey Hairpin, which ran my rear wheel wide. I went over the wall and down the banking, and when I woke up I was in a tree.
“I hit my head hard three times on the ground as I tumbled, so hard that I dented the carbon shell, and the high density foam around the vents had stress fractures in it.
“I was knocked out, but I came to straight away and was fully coherent. I was even joking with the medics.
“I had a massive bruise on my head, three deep lines on the top of my head where I head butted the vents from the inside, but that was it, and that’s a pretty strong testimony to just how strong and protective my Bell helmet is.
“I’m still alive and I have no lasting problems – I can remember everything up to the point I lost the front, and from when I woke up. It works and I trust it, and that says everything you need to know.”
By Simon Toyne