SCC: Lime Rock: Billy Johnson race notes

LAKEVILLE, Conn. Johnson takes the Motorsport Technology Group BMW Z4 M-Coupe to a Top 15 finish in the car's debut race at Lime Rock. After four years, Billy Johnson reunited with Tom Milner to take the ...

LAKEVILLE, Conn. Johnson takes the Motorsport Technology Group BMW Z4 M-Coupe to a Top 15 finish in the car's debut race at Lime Rock. After four years, Billy Johnson reunited with Tom Milner to take the #18 Motorsport Technology Group BMW Z4 M-Coupe to a 14th place finish in the Grand-Am Koni Challenge GS race at Lime Rock Park. This Memorial Day Weekend event was the second race of the ten round 2008 Koni Challenge series.

This weekend marked the four-year anniversary of Johnson and Milner's debut race in the inaugural 2004 Formula BMW USA championship where the duo were teammates on Team PTG. Four years later, the two debut the Motorsport Technology Group's BMW Z4 M-Coupe, the only currently-produced BMW racing in a major US race series.

Friday's practice was the first time the car drove under its own power. With little test time, the crew at MTG had the M-Coupe running flawlessly and enabled Johnson to qualify a respectable 14th of a 34-car field; despite a minor shock malfunction.

At the start of the race, Johnson took charge and improved a position every 3 laps on the narrow and challenging 1.53 mile track. By lap eleven, Johnson broke into the top 10 despite a very loose and oversteering car. Johnson pitted on lap 49 for fuel and tires and was back in the game. Hooking up with previous team driver Spencer Pumpelly in the #39 TRG Porsche, Johnson quickly moved through the field, wrecks, and back-markers and was able to move the #18 BMW up into 6th right behind the #19 team car driven by Darren Law, improving 17 positions within 19 laps. During the lap 73 full course yellow Johnson pitted for fuel, tires, and turned over the controls to co-driver Tom Milner.

Milner took over the #18 BMW and drove the remainder of the race, moving up into 6th before having to pit again for fuel 10 laps short of the finish. Milner brought home the #18 Motorsport Technology Group M-Coupe in a solid 14th for the car's maiden voyage.

Billy Johnson -- Driver #18 Motorsport Technology Group BMW Z4 M-Coupe

"The car was awesome and was quite impressive for its first race, let alone test weekend. We are still figuring the suspension out and what the car likes. The MTG guys did an amazing job building a solid and reliable car that made it to the end with no problems, all without a test weekend to shake out the bugs. The car was a little loose on the first set of tires. I was still able to break into the top 10 without any problems but as the laps wore on, the car became looser and looser. After the first pit stop and tire change we played around with the pressures and had a much more neutral and race-able setup that I was able to drive to 6th before the driver change. Tom did a great job taking the car from mid-pack back into 6th. Unfortunately not all the bugs were figured out and we had to pit for a splash of gas with 10 laps to go. The 14th place finish was respectable for the car's first outing, but to be able to run competitive times and to run in 6th place many times during the race in an untested car was quite an accomplishment. Everyone at Motorsport Technology Group did a fantastic job all weekend; they built a great car and had it reliable and race ready.

"Over the weekend it was great to work with the people at the Morris Animal Foundation and be able to represent such a good cause. I was glad to take part in the Sunday charity run and "Mutt Strut" and contribute to the cause. I would like to thank Steve Marcus for making all this possible. Overall, the car was a blast to drive and I believe with a little testing time, the car should be a competitive front-runner."

-credit: bj

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Darren Law , Spencer Pumpelly , Billy Johnson