- Simon Paice
Johnson Enjoys Brilliant Podium Breakthrough At Donington Park
A fantastic drive from sixth on the grid through to third position would secure Greg Johnson a superb first podium finish of the 2018 Ginetta Junior Championship season during the second meeting of the year at Donington Park this past weekend (28/29 April). After showing great potential during the season opener at Brands Hatch three weeks prior, Johnson would enjoy another hugely promising weekend at the Leicestershire circuit, with a consistent front-running performance only being tainted by an unfortunate contact-induced retirement. The sixteen year old would immediately position himself in the top six during official testing on Thursday, and he would carry that pace into qualifying on Saturday despite a change in weather conditions leading to him tackling a slippery wet circuit. Johnson would adapt well to the changing grip levels on track and his pace improved as the session progressed, with his best time coming on his final lap as he secured sixth and eighth place starting positions for races one and two of the weekend. A fantastic start to the opening encounter saw Johnson storm into third position at the first corner in his Fanatical-backed Ginetta G40, however that would unfortunately be short-lived as contact later in the lap forced him back to fifth position. Johnson would immediately challenge for fourth place though and got the place coming out of Redgate corner on lap three. He would then quickly pull clear of his pursuers as he set his sights on the top three ahead, with consistent lap times keeping him in touch. His efforts were rewarded when a mistake from a driver ahead allowed him to grab third place, with a composed drive seeing Johnson soak up some late pressure before taking the chequered flag for a richly-deserved podium finish – his first in the main Ginetta Junior championship. The Driving Test Success and Staffordshire Car Care supported driver carried the momentum from that success into race two that evening and another brilliant start would see him rise four positions over the course of the first two laps to slot into fourth place.
That would prove to be the peak of the race however as Johnson found himself the victim of contact on a number of occasions over the following laps, the last of which would end his race early as a heavy blow to the rear of his car heading into the final chicane left him stranded in the gravel trap. Not only would that lead to a first retirement of the season for the Staffordshire based racer and the loss of some crucial championship points, but it also meant that he would start the final race of the weekend on Sunday, which was televised live on ITV4, from the back of the grid. Johnson would be a man on a mission over the course of the fifteen minute race, with a superb drive seeing him fight his way up seven positions within the first three laps to settle in twelfth, before gaining four more places in the second half of the race to take a hard-earned eighth place finish. The weekend’s results mean that the Elite Motorsport racer lies in seventh place in the championship standings as the Ginetta Juniors move onto the fastest circuit in the UK, Thruxton, next month (19/20 May) for rounds six and seven of the season. Greg Johnson: “It’s certainly been a rollercoaster weekend, and we’ve experienced the highs and lows of motorsport. I’m delighted to have taken our first podium finish in the main Junior championship as we’ve been working really hard to get to that point. “I’m really pleased with the drive in that race, we showed some great speed to get to the flag in third, which made race two all the more disappointing. I couldn’t do much as I was getting contact from every direction in the early laps, before our race was ended unfairly. “That gave us a real challenge for race three and despite the car still having some issues caused by the race two incident, I was happy to be able to gain eleven places and get some more crucial championship points on the board. “We’ve shown some great pace and racecraft over the course of the weekend and that fills me with confidence heading to Thruxton. I really like the high-speed nature of the circuit and after getting one podium, I’m craving that feeling again!”
Images are from Jakob Ebrey Photography.