- Simon Paice
Johnson Ends Ginetta Junior Career With Battling Brands Hatch Display
Greg Johnson has brought his three year spell in the Ginetta Junior Championship to a close with a brilliant drive from fifteenth to seventh during the 2018 season finale at Brands Hatch this past weekend (29/30 September).
Since making his debut in the category aged fourteen back in April 2016, the championship has served as a crucial platform for Johnson to progress and develop as a driver, with breakthrough podium finishes this season at Donington Park and Oulton Park being his standout highlights.
The Fanatical backed racer’s final weekend in the series saw him tackle one of the best circuits in the UK, with the Brands Hatch Grand Prix layout being Johnson’s clear favourite track on the calendar courtesy of its high-speed flowing corners and undulations.
Following a pre-event test on Tuesday, Johnson was right on the front-running pace in his Elite Motorsport-prepared Ginetta G40 during official free practice on Friday, with some blistering lap-times propelling him to third overall on the timesheets.
Unfortunately it wouldn’t go his way in qualifying the next day however, with a change of track conditions and new Michelin tyres on his car proving to be a tricky combination as a lack of rear end grip would restrict him to twelfth and fifteenth on the grid for races one and two.
That put the seventeen year old right in the thick of the midfield action for the opening race that afternoon, with a great launch off the line seeing him make immediate progress before contact from behind pushed him wide at Druids and dropped him back to twelfth.
Following a long safety car interlude, Johnson was determined to progress into the top ten however after rising briefly to eleventh, two more bouts of contact from other drivers in the closing couple of laps left him crossing the finishing line back in thirteenth place.
Race two was set to take place under the Kent sunset on Saturday evening, however a lengthy delay in proceedings earlier in the day meant the race was moved into Sunday’s schedule, meaning they would now race twice in front of the live ITV4 television cameras.
From fifteenth on the grid, a great launch off the line saw him rise to twelfth at the end of the opening lap, before he kept his nose clean during a hectic second tour to emerge in a brilliant eighth place heading into an early safety car period.
Johnson would grab another place once the action restarted, but it was only a short spell of racing before the safety car was back on track for the remainder of the race, which meant he took the chequered flag in seventh position.
The final race of the weekend would mark the Staffordshire racer’s 70th and last outing in the Juniors, and it was one of the frenetic, action-packed races that he’s become accustomed to during his spell in the series as he fought over a place in the top six early on.
Sensationally running three abreast into Paddock Hill Bend at one stage, Johnson was on course for another top ten finish when contact to his Driving Test Success and Staffordshire Car Care backed G40 spun him round and left him fourteenth at the finish.
Greg Johnson: “It was a frustrating start to the weekend in qualifying, especially considering our really positive runs in free practice. That put us on the backfoot for the races, and unfortunately I kept getting hit in race one and came away in thirteenth.
“The second race was the clear highlight of the weekend. I made places off the start and then as it started kicking off around me, I was able to keep my nose clean and move up to seventh, a result I was looking good to replicate in race three before I received more contact.
“It was one of those weekends unfortunately where I didn’t get the chance to show what I can really do in the races, but I’m still smiling. The Elite Motorsport team did a brilliant job once again, and I must thank them and all of my fantastic sponsors for everything this year.
“We’ve certainly experienced the highs and lows of motorsport this season, from podiums to retirements and everything in-between. I’ve learnt a lot and enjoyed the racing, being in the thick of the action throughout and just needed some better luck.
“It’s been a great experience competing in the Juniors and it’s been a fantastic stepping stone for the future. From where I started, plodding around at the back barely finishing, to getting up on the podium this year, I’ve made huge progress and I’m confident heading into 2019.”
Image from Jakob Ebrey Photography