In his best race of the season, 18 year old Rookie Billy Johnson Qualifies 2nd in the ST division, dominates the first half of the race, and sets the fastest race lap by 8/10th of a second. San Clemente Ca, August 31, 2005---Mid-Ohio marked the...
In his best race of the season, 18 year old Rookie Billy Johnson Qualifies 2nd in the ST division, dominates the first half of the race, and sets the fastest race lap by 8/10th of a second.
San Clemente Ca, August 31, 2005---Mid-Ohio marked the third time this season that Billy Johnson drove the #06 Compass 360/Racing BMW Z3. Both Billy and the team had high hopes for the weekend based on their last teaming at Barber Motorsports Park where Billy ran the final 15-20 minutes of his stint in P2 after moving up from P8 qualifying position.
"Our engineer, Ian McQuillan gave me a great car to drive all weekend," said Billy. "It was fast right out of the trailer and in all weather conditions. After each session I would tell Ian what I would like the car to do different, and he made it happen. We just kept going in the right direction all weekend long, the car's handling was AWESOME. In the rain we had a second on the field. I set my fast time on lap 6 and then came in to let my co-driver have the rest of the session. The track continued to dry as the session progressed but only 4 cars could better my time, and the faster laps were done 10-15 laps later in the session," continued Billy.
In Qualifying, driving the # 06 Compass/360 BMW Z-3 Billy Johnson held P1 for most of the 15 minute session. With a couple of laps to go Will Turner in the #95 Turner Motorsport / BMW 330i knocked him down to P2. The Compass/360 team gave Billy the news on the radio and he promptly retook the pole on his last lap. Unfortunately, Will was further back on the track and retook the position by a scares 5/100ths on his last lap. The #70 Speedsource car took P3 about 5/10ths back from the #06 Compass 360/Racing BMW Z3.
"The start of the race was some of the most fun I have ever had this season," said Billy after the race. "Due to the number of cars in the field, the green flag was given on the long back straight this meant turn one of the start was actually turn seven on the track (the beginning of the Madness Complex). Into Madness Will Turner and I battled side by side through turns 7,8,9 and 10. David Haskell in the #70 Speedsource car was right on Will's tail up until turn 10 so the three of us were all in there very tight. Coming out of turn 11 the Turner car pulled out a bit on me and I was able to slot in behind him. The #95 car held the lead at the first lap but I took the lead by out breaking him into Madness the next time around," continued Johnson.
"After missing pole in qualifying by such a small amount, Ian and I made a couple of changes to the setup that really improved the car's handling. The car was unbelievable, after getting around the #95 we just took off. We set fast lap of the race which was 8/10th faster than the next quickest car and 6/10ths faster than the pole qualifying time. I was easily able to click off laps that were half a second faster than the group behind me. We built a 3 ½ second lead before the first caution let the pack catch me. One of the Acura's got me on the restart but I took the lead later that same lap," continued an enthusiastic Billy after the race.
"We immediately drove off to a lead of more than 3 seconds before getting stuck behind one of the Team Sahlen 996 GS cars. I am not sure what the guy was thinking but he was break checking and blocking me all the way around the track. I could get by him in the corners but he would get by me on the straight and start blocking again. In the meantime the pack was closing in. This went on for several laps and I think it is a real shame when a GS back marker is deliberately affecting the course of the ST race. I finally got by but we would have been much farther ahead at the pit stop if the guy and shown any racing courtesy. I would like to thank the Team Sahlen pit crew because I know they were trying to rectify the situation once made aware of the problem," said Johnson.
The next yellow flag came out almost exactly at the half way mark setting of a flurry of pit stops. Billy pitted under yellow from the lead but the effects of a radio problem cost the Compass/360 Team a few positions. Billy's co-driver David Ciekiewicz came out of the pits in a group of GS cars. On the restart, the GS drivers showed more enthusiasm than driving sense and David got shuffled back to P12 to avoid damaging the car. From there he made a fine drive picking up 4 spots to bring the #06 car in 8th place.
"I was a bit disappointed we did not end up on the podium, we absolutely had the car to win. However, I am very pleased with what we accomplished this weekend, said Billy after the race.
"I am even more thankful that my team mate Shawn Greene--who was injured in a crash during the morning warm-up in the #36 Compass/360 sister car is doing well after successful hip and femur surgery and is expected to make a full recovery," continued Billy.
This weekend marked several firsts for both Billy Johnson and Compass 360/Racing in Grand-Am Cup Competition.
* First Front Row qualifying Position (also first top 5 qualifying position)
* First Fast Race Lap
* First Fast Lap of the entire weekend (Billy was the only ST driver to get in the 1:38's)
* First Time Compass 360/Racing has lead an ST Race (Billy Lead Previously when Driving for Matt Connolly Motorsports at The Glen)
In 7 races with 3 different teams this year, Billy has turned the car over to his co-driver in the top 5 positions in all 6 races he has started and moved the car from 16th to 6th in his only stint as second driver. Each time out, he continues to impress members of the paddock with his speed, consistency, driver feedback and race craft. He is becoming a real force to be reckoned with.
"I would again like to thank Karl Tompson for inviting me to drive with Compass/360. The Team is awesome to work with and Ian McQuillan can sure put together a quick car. I look forward to racing with them again in the future."