Newly crowned British GT4 champion Graham Johnson believes his and co-driver Mike Robinson’s 2016 title success proves the class can cater for amateurs as well as professionals.
The PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport pair finished third at Donington Park eight days ago to seal the overall class and Pro/Am crowns after winning twice and claiming three pole positions during the season. That was despite a record number of Silver Cup crews and teenagers entering the GT4 ranks at the start of the year.
Indeed, with an increasing number of young professionals treating the category as a first step on the sportscar racing career ladder, there was a chance that British GT’s traditional Pro/Am format could have been under threat.
Johnson, though, has relished the opportunity to compete against and beat 2016’s crop of talented youngsters, and hopes his and Robinson’s success proves Pro/Am crews can still flourish.
“We're Pro/Am but I'm not sure that we always get recognition of that status,” he said. “I'm running the business even when trackside and Mike's day job is to oversee our conference division. I think we had time to do five test days this year. That and race weekends were our only time on circuit. No time in simulators - and not enough time in the gym either!
“I really hope our success shows other Am drivers that they’re not just fighting for Pro/Am victories and podiums, but that they can also be in the mix for overall wins - and the overall title! It's been amazing to beat such talented rising stars en route to the championship, but I really hope that more Am drivers will be enticed to enter the series next year.”
The 42-year-old added that the level of this year’s grid had actually been a factor in helping he, Robinson and the team raise their game.
“I still can't believe that Mike and I are champions,” he said. “Yes, we stated it was our intention to win the title before the season began, but the quality of the competition - the talent in that GT4 grid - I didn't actually ever think we'd be so fortunate.
“Mike and I help each other go faster; we can always teach each other something every weekend. But most of my pace this year has come from team spirit and having an Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 that I have utter confidence in. All of us - the whole team - have operated on another level this year.
“I think the increased competition from such a young, talented field made us all push that little bit harder.”
The 2017 British GT Championship begins at Oulton Park on April 15 & 17.