Greg Johnson secured a career-best fifth place finish as he opened his 2018 Ginetta Junior Championship season with a hard-fought pair of top six finishes at Brands Hatch this past weekend (8/9 April). Johnson headed into his third year in the BTCC support championship feeling confident that he could challenge right at the front of the field following a hugely positive winter testing programme with the Elite Motorsport team. Returning to the scene of his Ginetta debut two years ago, the short 1.2 mile Brands Hatch Indy circuit would showcase just how competitive the Junior championship is, with the top thirteen cars split by less than a second during official testing on Friday. Johnson would enjoy a strong showing as he finished the day third overall, however his chances of replicating that performance come qualifying the next day would be hampered by traffic on circuit leaving him unable to get a fully clear lap during the session. The Fanatical, Driving Test Success and Staffordshire Car Care supported driver would still end up securing a strong seventh on the grid for the opening race of the season later that afternoon, which would turn out to be a typically action-packed encounter. Recovering from a slow start to fight his way back into seventh position by the end of the third lap, Johnson would show great pace as he closed a gap to the three cars ahead of him, which eventually put him right in the middle of a thrilling six-car battle over fourth place. Johnson would produce an impressive display as he found himself on both the offensive and defensive at points of the race, with some superb overtaking moves around the outside at Druids and Clearways meaning he would settle in sixth place. The sixteen year old would have to overcome some late drama to secure the top six finish though, with heavy contact to the rear of his Ginetta G40 coming out of Druids on the final lap sending him completely sideways across the circuit. Johnson would produce an incredible save to keep himself out of the barriers and on the tarmac though, before nursing his damaged car around the remainder of the lap to a deserved sixth place finish and a strong points haul to start the new campaign. The second race of the weekend would take place in front of the live ITV4 television cameras on Sunday afternoon, with Johnson producing a superb start to rise from fifth position into third heading through the world-famous Paddock Hill Bend for the first time. The Staffordshire racer would unfortunately slip back to fifth soon after though as he struggled for grip in greasy conditions, however he soon settled into a good rhythm on track and went on to hold fifth position for the remainder of the race. That result means Johnson leaves the season opener in fifth position in the championship standings heading into the next three rounds of the year at Donington Park in Leicestershire at the end of the month (28/29 April). Greg Johnson: “We didn’t get the results we ultimately wanted this weekend, but we got a good haul of points to start the season with which is key. We showed our pace in Friday practice and it was a shame that we couldn’t replicate it in qualifying as we got caught out by traffic. “The opening race was a good challenge as I was in the middle of a really close-fought battle. The contact at the end was unnecessary, but the most important thing was that I kept it on the tarmac and managed to get the car to the chequered flag. “Race two was frustrating as we started well but just didn’t seem to have the traction or grip to keep with the top four, but fifth was another strong result and my best in the main championship so far. We’ll come back stronger at Donington Park and hopefully get on the overall podium.”
Image from Jakob Ebrey Photography.