The first start was into its fourth lap of a scheduled 12 when a crash involving Rob Hodson and Marek Cerveny brought out the first red flag with Adelaide’s Johnson lying in third place on the factory supported Ducati Panigale V4R just behind record eight-time winner Michael Rutter.
Team-mate and 2001 race winner John McGuinness, unfortunately never made it that far when a technical issue on the sighting lap meant he was unable to take his start from the second row of the grid. He wasn’t able to make the eight lap re-run either where Johnson again slotted into third place behind Rutter and Peter Hickman but on this occasion, the race was only half way round its second lap when a multiple pile-up involving six riders brought out the second red flag.
With light fading and no time in Sunday’s packed schedule to run the race for a third time, the result was declared at the completion of that first lap giving Rutter his ninth win ahead of Hickman with Johnson claiming a brilliant third place, his first podium at the event, for the Penrith-based PBM team.
Both riders were having their first outings on the Ducati Panigale V4R and impressed throughout, McGuinness setting the third fastest time in Thursday’s opening qualifying session and Johnson half a second and one place further back in fourth. More and more rubber was laid down around the 3.8-mile Guia circuit during the day so track conditions were a lot better for the second 45-minute qualifying session on Friday morning and Johnson, getting more and more used to the bike Josh Brookes took to second in this year’s British Superbike Championship upped his pace by 1.5s and a time of 2m26.093s saw him claim third overall for a place on the front row of the grid.
McGuinness was also quicker on Friday and was just a quarter of a second adrift of his team-mate, a lap of 2m26.352s enabling him to qualify in a strong fourth place. That put both riders in a confident frame of mind ahead of Saturday’s race and although the 2019 meeting ended in exceptional circumstances, Johnson’s podium gave the team plenty to smile about.
David Johnson: “It’s quite a strange way to get a podium but I felt we thoroughly deserved it as our pace has been really strong all week. Every time I rode the bike, I learnt more and more about it and we found a lot of things in between the qualifying sessions and even after Q2 when we sat down and looked at the data we could see there were a couple of key areas on the circuit where I was losing a lot of time including using the wrong gear in some of the corners. “The plan was to put it all together on the track on Saturday where we made a couple more changes during morning warm-up. By the time we got to the race I felt that we were in a position to fight for the podium and in the first three laps, I felt really comfortable. Hicky had obviously disappeared but I was just sitting behind Rutter waiting for the second half of the race. Unfortunately, the crashes meant we never got another proper run but I’m over the moon with the third place and really grateful for the team for giving me the opportunity.”
John McGuinness: “What can I say, I’m absolutely gutted that I didn’t get to start today’s race as it John McGuinnesshad been an amazing week up until that point. From the moment I jumped on it, I loved riding the Ducati and I’m really grateful for the PBM team and everyone around me for keeping the faith in me. I felt really comfortable on the bike and we ran some good, competitive times during qualifying so I felt confident we could fight for the podium. “There was little to choose between Davo and myself but I had a problem on the sighting lap and although the boys did everything they could to try and fix it on the grid, as soon as I pulled away for the warm-up lap, I knew it wasn’t right. Like I say, I’m gutted and it’s not what we deserved but we showed how competitive we could be so I’m sure we’ll be back next year for another go.”
Johnny Mowatt, Team Coordinator: “It’s not at all how we wanted the race weekend to end and first of all, we’re glad all of the riders involved in the incidents are relatively ok. Having a result after just one lap is a bit strange but we’re all really happy for Davo to finish on the podium and we’d like to thank him for doing a great job having never ridden the bike prior to coming here. His pace throughout was excellent and he really deserved the third place. On the flip side, we’re all gutted for John as he’s ridden really well all week and it was great to see him fighting it out at the sharp end. Both riders were very even in qualifying so it would have made it a very exciting race between the two PBM boys. Having said that, they’re both safe and sound which is the main thing and we wish the injured riders a speedy recovery.”