Greg Johnson valiantly overcame power issues and contact to record a best finish of fifth position during the latest rounds of the 2018 Ginetta Junior Championship at Rockingham this past weekend (11/12 August).
The seventh meeting of the season saw the Fanatical supported driver tackle one of the most unique circuits on the calendar, with the Corby venue’s “American style” banked oval providing high-speed thrills in addition to a tricky, technical infield sector.
Two productive days of testing at Rockingham in the week leading up the event would put Johnson in confident mood for the race meeting, which he kicked off with some crucial running in both wet and dry conditions during Friday’s two official free practice sessions.
It would become apparent heading into the weekend however that Johnson’s Elite Motorsport Ginetta G40 was suffering with a straight-line speed deficit to his rivals, which meant he was losing precious time heading around the flat-out oval section.
This meant that despite the Staffordshire-based racer showing huge potential through the middle of the lap, he would emerge from qualifying on Saturday lower than hoped as he secured eighth and seventh on the grid for the two races that afternoon.
There would be further frustration on the opening lap of race one though as heavy contact to his Elite Motorsport prepared machine coming out of Yentwood corner sent him swiftly off circuit and across the grass, dropping him to the back of the field.
Emerging in eighteenth position, Johnson would go on to mount a fantastic recovery drive. After gaining a place on lap two, he produced a sublime overtaking move heading into the Deene Hairpin next time around to pick off three other drivers.
Rising to twelfth shortly afterwards, he would face a three second gap to the next car but some superb lap-times saw him get past within three laps, before an issue for a driver ahead on the final tour meant he took the chequered flag in a great tenth place.
The comeback drive put Johnson in high spirits heading into race two and a strong start saw him emerge from a frenetic first few corners in eighth place, before he quickly returned to his starting position of seventh on the second lap.
The close-fought nature of the Ginetta Juniors was brilliantly showcased as less than three seconds covered the top eight drivers as the race developed, with a mature drive seeing Johnson keep out of trouble as the long train of cars lapped the 1.94 mile circuit.
Those efforts would be rewarded three laps from the end as a collision ahead opened the door for the seventeen year old to grab fourth position. While he lost a spot soon after, some great driving in the closing laps ensured he came home with a fantastic top five finish.
That result meant Johnson lined-up fifth on the grid for the final race of the weekend, which would take place in front of a bumper trackside crowd and the live ITV4 television cameras on Sunday, with rainfall prior to the start presenting a new challenge.
A fantastic start in his Driving Test Success and Staffordshire Car Care backed Ginetta saw Johnson rise to fourth place heading through the Deene hairpin for the first time, however a hit under braking at the next corner forced him wide across the wet kerbs.
Getting back on track in eighth, Johnson produced a composed drive in tricky conditions to maintain that position all the way through to the chequered flag, with post-race judicials later promoting him to sixth place for his ninth top six finish of the season so far.
The hat-trick of top ten finishes over the course of the weekend leave him seventh in the championship standings heading into Rounds 19 and 20 at Knockhill in Scotland in two weeks’ time (25/26 August).
Greg Johnson: “It’s been another typically rollercoaster weekend in the Ginetta Junior Championship, with plenty of highs and lows. We felt really positive after our running on Wednesday and Friday, but unfortunately qualifying didn’t go our way.
“The issue with the straight-line speed really hit us in the races, as I was dropping back in the tow and couldn’t really attack into the two main overtaking opportunities. Therefore it was a huge relief to be able to gain the ground back that I did in race one after the early contact.
“I enjoyed the second race, it was good, clean racing and I seized the opportunity to grab fifth when it presented itself. It’s a shame we had the wet weather, as we didn’t have much experience in those conditions on this circuit and couldn’t make much progress.
“Sixth in the end was a pleasing way to end the weekend and we feel like we’ve diagnosed the problem with our straight-line speed, so we’re looking forward to heading to Knockhill which I feel is a circuit I should be strong at.”
Image from Jakob Ebrey Photography.