Graham Johnson ‘genuinely believes’ that he and PMW Expo/Optimum Motorsport co-driver Mike Robinson have what it takes to win this season’s British GT4 title after a positive winter’s preparation.
The pair, who finished second last season after scoring victory on debut at Oulton Park, topped two of the three sessions during the championship’s Media Day a fortnight ago and head into the 2016 campaign with plenty more reasons to feel bullish about their chances.
Indeed, Johnson believes the combination of new team personnel and a change of focus compared with this time last season are just partly why his and Robinson’s Ginetta G55 should be fighting at the sharp end once again.
“I genuinely feel that Mike and I are better prepared for this season than we've ever been,” he said. “We've got a new car for 2016, we've got a great new engineer in Geoff Kingston, we've discovered countless new car set-up possibilities over last year, and both Mike and I have been training harder than ever in the gym. We've also got a new mental focus: we're in it to win the GT4 title whereas last year we entered the season simply wanting to achieve podiums.”
Despite his confidence, Johnson is also quick to acknowledge the step-up in competition British GT4 presents this year. No less than seven Silver-graded crews will line-up at Brands Hatch, while new machinery from both McLaren and Maserati cannot be discounted either.
Fortunately, Johnson has a plan.
“We might be the oldest driver pairing on the GT4 grid - most of our competitors have a younger combined age than just me in fact - but we're also the most experienced pairing too,” he said. We want to hit the ground running at Brands just as we did at the first round last year when we surprised even ourselves by winning the first race and finishing second in the next.
“We don't doubt that this is the most competitive GT4 entry that’s ever been assembled and also understand the competition will get better and better as the season progresses, but we know what we need to do to take the title. Last season was our learning year; now it's time to put those lessons into practise.”
Part of that confidence stems from PMW Expo/Optimum Motorsport running a new Ginetta G55, which Johnson believes offers a step forward over the same model he drove last season.
“We certainly seem to have the pace for success. The Media Day was our first time in the new car and our first time on Pirellis, but Mike topped the times in two of the three sessions and I was fourth quickest,” he revealed. “Our new Ginetta felt great straight out of the box; better and more confidence-inspiring than last year's car ever felt.
“We were just out there to blow-off the cobwebs, but we made sure that we carried the correct ballast and ran with the BOP ride-heights from the final 2015 round. We also didn't take new tyres because we wanted to learn how long the Pirellis will last. it turns out they give good performance for a very long time!
“If we can avoid trouble, have luck not fall against us as it did several times last year, and we put everything we've learnt into practise each and every time we sit in that car, we genuinely believe we can take the title.”
The opening round of this season’s British GT Championship takes place at Brands Hatch on April 16/17.