Johnston banking on success at Daytona.
Derek Johnston, winner of the inaugural 2009 Rolex 24 At Daytona Driver Challenge presented by Sunoco, returned from the legendary Daytona International Speedway after posting times on a par with the pros.
Johnston, 47, first tried his hand at competitive motor racing in 2006, yet managed to record an impressive lap time of 1:48.5 on the celebrated Florida track -- and on his first turn in a Daytona Prototype -- during his two-day practice earlier in December.
Said Johnston, "That's only a second slower than a lot of the pros manage.
"Daytona International Speedway was like nothing I have driven round before," he commented. "I've raced at Spa, The Nurburgring, Dijon and many others, although Daytona is something else, especially pulling 195mph out of one of the 31-degree banks at just a foot off the wall."
"And at those speeds, it's not 'blink and you'll miss it', but 'blink and you'll hit it," he smiled.
Johnston has little to fear; his personal trainer is 2003 Rolex 24 At Daytona® (ROLEX 24), winner Guy Cosmo.
Johnston won his seat at ROLEX 24, to be held January 30th-31st 2010, having triumphed in a gruelling multi-race contest, the Sunuco Driver Challenge, held in the UK between April and October this year.
Arguably the biggest prize in British motorsport, the challenge saw 98 racers in the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series, the Avon Tyres British GT Championship, the Radical UK Cup and the SPEED Sports Prototype Series pitting their skills against each other.
Yet despite the class competition he will be up against in the ROLEX 24, Johnston, who lives in Nottingham, is keeping his feet firmly on the ground. "I'm hoping to get the chance to top my suntan up a bit when I'm there," he said.
ROLEX 24 has all the hallmarks of being a classic David versus Goliath struggle. The team at Anglo American Oil Company Limited, and others in the UK, has its fingers crossed for the unassuming Derek Johnston.