New rules mean new machines and a new dimension at this year’s Manx Grand Prix and with the four-lap RST Classic Superbike race now open to pre-1997 models, Ashcourt Racing have taken full advantage as they field regular rider Lee Johnston on their 750cc RC45 Honda. After brief outings on the Phil Reed-owned machine at Oliver’s Mount, Scarborough last year and more recently at Blyton Airfield, Johnston got his first taste of the ex-V&M Racing bike around the 37.73-mile Mountain Course during Sunday’s opening qualifying session. “It’s going to be a bit of a learning year for both myself and the team,” the 2019 Supersport TT race winner said. “But we aim to give as good account of ourselves as possible before returning stronger in 2023. The RC45 is a phenomenal bit of a kit and has a great track record at the TT so I’m keen to see what we can do.” Introduced in 1994, as a replacement for the ground-breaking RC30, the RC45 Honda dominated the big bike races at the TT between 1994 and 1998, winning every single Formula One and Senior race. Steve Hislop got the ball rolling with a Formula One-Senior double on his Castrol Honda RC45 in 1994, his final year of racing on the island, with fellow team members Phillip McCallen and Joey Dunlop sharing the victories a year later. McCallen then took all four races in 1996 and 1997 for Honda Britain before Ian Simpson did the double in 1998, the latter achieved on a full factory version of the RC45 as Honda flew in two of the special machines for Simpson and team-mate Michael Rutter as part of Honda’s 50th year celebrations. The changing of rules at the TT saw 1000cc machines introduced for 1999 and the RC45’s dominance was brought to an end as Honda focused their efforts on their new Fireblade but whilst the winning spell was short, the machine certainly made its mark around the Mountain Course with Johnston and Ashcourt Racing now aiming to do the same at the Manx GP. With more machines being added to the field, including both the RC45 and the 750cc GSXR Suzuki SRAD, the Classic Superbike will once again be one of the most popular races at this year’s event.