Interview: With Dan Johnson (#4)

F1 Stockcars caught up with Daniel Johnson for a chat, over to Daniel.

Daniel Johnson I’m 18years old, Son of Dave Johnson (ex-383) My home town is Worksop, Nottinghamshire. And I work for the family business as a commercial vehicle painter.

Hi Daniel, can you tell us about your racing history?

I’ve always wanted to be a F1 Stockcar driver and I started out in the BriSCA MiniStox formula. I competed for three years from the age of ten till I was thirteen. I won a few things but nothing major; I achieved a 3rd place in their world final race which I’m proud to have achieved.
I then moved away from Stockcar racing for two years competing on the Grasstrack circuit. In my first year I won the Nationals; an achievement that has never been done in anyone’s first year of grasstrack racing before and then, in my 2nd year I became the youngest driver to win the British. But, my heart was still in Stockcar racing. Before I turned sixteen I got the lend of Luke Davison’s MiniStox which I raced at Coventry for one meeting, I just wanted to have one more go. I won the meeting Final which was something as I’d been out of MiniStox / Contact racing for two years! And from there I went into F1’s.

Your début was at Buxton.

Yes, a VERY wet Buxton. I was using my dad’s Shale car. For my first race I started at the back, you know, just to see how I’d get on. It’s hard to say just how much I enjoyed it; before that Buxton there was talk of racing the Pickup Truck formula, you know at Rockingham, or moving up a class in Grasstrack. After that first race, any thoughts of racing anything other than a Formula 1 Stockcar were well and truly gone.
I got an 8th in my first ever F1 Final, and I just wanted to keep racing. I wanted another heat, another race, I just didn’t want to stop. Despite the heavy rain, I was buzzing.

You certainly made an impact in your 1st year.

And I’ve got a lot of people to thank for that. When I race, I want to be the best that I can be. My Dad and Peter Falding gave me advice; and as I wanted to be, and still do want to be the best, so I listen and take on board what they say. You know they are not saying it for no reason. I grew up wanting to be a Stockcar driver, but when you actually are, you can’t just go out there hitting everything thinking your going to win everything. My first and probably most important piece of advice was simply – keep your cool. Don’t go out there making enemies. When you can follow the top drivers, look at what they are doing, learn what they are doing.

Peter Falding certainly appears to have taken you under his wing.

Peter’s great, my dad and Peter have been friends for a long time. Peter and his family are family friends, tomorrow I’ll be watching Jordan (Peter’s son) race his go-kart. Peter has been, and still is a great help to me. Not only does he build my cars but he’s been there at the top, and to get advice from Peter is priceless.

You’ve achieved a lot in a very short space of time, what are you hoping for in 2009?

2009, I feel ready for ’09. My first year was spent learning, following, getting fast, getting control of the car. To win a Final in my first year really picked me up. Last year I was, and will this year continue to be learning. But, last year I raised my game in the big meetings. So this season I aim to have my game raised for every meeting. Really put in a challenge for everything; Heats, Finals and Championships, I know I can and I have to put in that ‘extra’ bit.
I want to be in the top 10 points so I get my place in the shoot out, and I want to be in the World Final.

Sadly you encountered bad luck getting into last years W/F.

It was horrible, I’d done all the hard work getting into the Semi. I was so looking forward to having a shot at Ipswich, my car was fast enough, I was feeling pretty good about having a go at winning it. And then for that to happen, at the last possible minute. I just had to put it all out of my mind and just forget about that years World Final. It’s one thing not to make it though your semi, but to not even have a shot at it was horrible.

2008 was not all bad news, you did manage to win the European Championship.

Winning the European was something! It felt great to win it. In front of a huge crowd, it’s everything. But what’s even stranger is the recognition you get following it. I’ve had people and drivers I don’t even know, other Stockcar Formula drivers or Circuit Drivers saying ‘Well done, you’re the European Champion’ long after the event.

Dan Johnson celebrates Winning the 2008 European Championship. Photo Colin Casserley

Dan Johnson celebrates Winning the 2008 European Championship. Photo Colin Casserley

Now your settled into F1 Stockcars, have you thought about giving another formula a go?

No not really, other racing just seems round-and-round racing now. Back in 2007 I got the lend of a Class 3 autograss car and I entered an event in Northampton (not at the stockcar track) and I beat Derek Linch in the final. In stockcar terms that’s like beating Andy Smith or Frankie Wainman Jnr in the final on your début!
I got a lot of credit for that on the Autograss scene and on their forums ‘first time out in a class 3 and beating a star man’ and people were asking if I would take it up full time. But compared to racing my F1 Stockcar at say Northampton, it was nothing. Yeah they are fast and quite easy to drive but nothing beats the buzz or the reward you get from driving an F1 well. F1’s are pretty difficult cars to drive without contact.

Do you have a favourite track?

I’d probably say Skegness, it’s fast and very challenging. With it being a smaller oval, you really notice the presence of other cars there.

Any tracks you wish you could of raced at?

Bradford and Venray, I was so looking forward to racing at Venray in 2008, but sadly it closed before I had the opportunity to race there. And no one seems to know what’s going to happen with the new track at present, But as soon as that’s sorted I will be there for the Gold Cup. That’s a race I want to be in.

What advice would you give to anyone coming into F1’s, say moving up from MiniStox?

Settle down, don’t get big-headed. Listen to every piece of advice you’re given, you might think you know better but 99% of what you’ll get told will help you. Don’t go out there trying to beat people straight away, flying in with your bumper. Hang back, if you get behind a faster guy, follow him, look at how he’s driving, how his car’s handling, don’t just plough in thinking your gonna move him, and beat him.

That’s pretty good advice Dan.

For me, the best feeling is being able to race fast and clean, feeling totally in control of your car. That’s magic, you relish them races. And the contact is much easier, you don’t have to plough into the car in front to move them. It’s an awesome feeling.

So you prefer Tar to shale then.

At present I’d say yes, I’m getting pretty fast and smooth on Tar. But I’m still very much learning Shale, that’s a totality different ball game. You’re here – there – everywhere on shale (laugh) I’ll get there but at the moment I’m still very much learning Shale Racing. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it, but going fast, really fast on Tar is awesome (smiles)

Your part of the young-guns coming into the sport, what’s your thoughts on that?

You have to pinch yourself sometimes, Things really have happened fast. If you look at the likes of me, Daniel Wainman, Tom Harris, Lee Robinson, Matt Newson we’re all Red grades, and not only are we competing with the older established drivers but challenging them. Then you only have to look down the grades and there’s a lot of young Blue and Yellow grade drivers challenging us! That’s the thing with our sport, despite all the doom and gloom, we’re probably one of the only motorsports that actually has young drivers constantly moving into it. If we all stick with it the future looks very bright.

I can only agree with you Dan, Everyone here wishes you the best of luck defending your European Championship and getting though your Semi and into the World Final.

Photo Stephen Cording.

Photo Stephen Cording.

Thanks for that, and I look forward to chatting with F1 Stockcars again sometime soon.
Dan Johnson #4

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