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Johnson (PMW Expo/Optimum): “We Already Feel Part Of The McLaren Family”

Graham Johnson shed's light on the team's mid-season car switch

With two rounds remaining in the 2017 British GT Championship season, reigning GT4 champions Mike Robinson and Graham Johnson are on-course to take another title. Not the overall honours this time, instead, the Pro-Am drivers’ championship, which they lead by 29 points. It’s not been an easy season for them though, after winning three races last year en route to the title, Johnson and Robinson felt the need to switch things up to give them a greater chance of winning races and coming away with the title.

Last year, as part of their team PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport raced with a Ginetta G55, but in conversation with DSC. Johnson explained that they were looking at other options during the off-season.

“We won the title last year, and in the off-season we looked at other things,” he said. “We had several conversations, including graduating to GT3, but it didn’t really take our fancy after looking at the deals we were offered. So we started the season in our trustworthy Ginetta, and then got invited by McLaren to test the 570S GT4.

“That was the weekend after Rockingham, and we were blown away by the differences between it and the Ginetta, and were were also surprised that we were both immediately competitive. So from there it was very quick, McLaren got the deal done and the car to us in record time so we got it out for Silverstone.

“That was last minute, the car wasn’t right, especially for Qualifying, so it was a bit of a disaster but we’ve been getting on top of it ever since.”

The main differences between the G55 and 570S GT4, Johnson says, is in its drivability. While the Ginetta is more of a thoroughbred racer, and at times challenging when trying to unlock its ultimate pace, he explained that the McLaren is more suited to gentlemen drivers.

“The Ginetta is far harder to driver, far more edgy, far more raw, but we have to thank them, they helped us achieve our dream. If you can drive a Ginetta quick though, you can drive anything, because this McLaren is just so easy,” he chuckled.

“I always say now that my wife could drive this, and genuinely she could take a drive round a circuit. She wouldn’t get out of a garage in the Ginetta, it’s too intimidating. I can understand why gents like it so much. It’s very forgiving and sends signals of intent early. It’s a significantly easier car to drive.

“And you know, we also want to future-proof ourselves,” he continued. “Mike and I wanted to win the title for a long time, and want to continue to do this as long as we can into the future, as long as health and money don’t intervene. this McLaren is future proof with more manufacturers coming in like Mercedes, we think Ginetta will find it to compete, like they eventually did in GT3. So being in a McLaren, we know we’ll get supported and from a schoolboy point of view, it’s a McLaren!

Mike and I wanted to win the title for a long time, and want to continue to do this as long as we can into the future

“Mike and I are scratching the most out of it, we’ve got great engineers, the team put a great car out for us. We’ve been at it a long time, and I think we’ll be challenging for wins. We haven’t won since Oulton Park last year, we’ve had a few podiums but we want to keep winning.”

Johnson also pointed out that himself and teammate Mike Robinson have so far been extremely pleased with McLaren’s customer service, despite it’s high volume of GT4 sales this year, Johnson explained that they’ve been nothing short of impressive in getting them up to speed with their new car.

“The Ginetta has gone to GT Cup, to someone else, and we’re now with McLaren,” he said. “It’s called customer racing, and they treat you well, we already feel like like we’re part of the McLaren family, they’re always on-board, they want you to be fast. When we struggled at Silverstone, they couldn’t do enough for us, I’ve never experienced anything like it. If you’re stuck, you don’t need to go to them, because they’ll come to you, which is so impressive.

“When you go back to the schoolboy dream stuff, you’re driving a McLaren and you’re made to feel so welcome in doing so.”

This weekend Johnson and Robinson head to Brands Hatch for a two-hour race round the GP Loop, and if they score their first win and things go their way, they could head into the ‘Donington Decider’ with a chance of repeating as champions. On 97.5 points, and 38 points off Ginetta’s leading duo of Will Tregurtha and Stuart Midleton, so they’re mathematically in with a shot, and as we know, the British GT often throws up surprises at the end of the season.