Billy Johnson Shines in GT Debut! Los Angeles, Ca October 10, 2005---Because of persistent showers plaguing VIR on Saturday, the grid for the VIR 400 was determined by owner points. Since this was the ...
Billy Johnson Shines in GT Debut!
Los Angeles, Ca October 10, 2005---Because of persistent showers plaguing VIR on Saturday, the grid for the VIR 400 was determined by owner points. Since this was the #13 PTG BMW's first race of the season, Billy Johnson and Matt Connolly would start last. Unfortunately, the rest of the PTG squad would be relegated to the back of the field for failing to submit the qualifying driver nominations on time. Billy was given the honor of starting the car on race day for his Rolex Series debut. Therefore, the 18 year old Californian started Sunday's race 20th with the rest of the PTG BMW's behind him.
Getting a good start was imperative for Billy as not to lose touch with the GT leader, but he also did not want to interfere with his PTG teammate; some of them in the mists of a close championship battle. Therefore, at the drop of the green, Billy immediately let his BMW teammate pass and followed them through the field. By turn 1 he was down to 24th position. Billy Johnson didn't waste anytime passing slower Pontiac GTO's, Corvettes' and Porsche Cup Cars to make his was in the first 20 by the end of the first lap. With the track being damped in some places, making passes off line became a difficult task. Billy had to thread his way past slower traffic without making unnecessary contact and risking an off. He followed his more experienced PTG teammates towards the front of the field, avoiding carnage on the way. During the first dozen laps, cars were spinning and going off around him everywhere. On lap 14, the caution waved as the Daytona Prototype leaders were on the same straight away. The objective of staying on the same lap as the GT leaders worked to perfection.
Under yellow, Billy reported that the car was fantastic and that he was actually being quite conservative. At that moment, Billy Johnson found his way in the top 10 with 4 of the 5 PTG BMW's. Kelly Collins, driving the #17 PTG BMW, avoided a slow moving Porsche and was pushed off the track on lap 11. At the restart on lap 17, Billy continued his fight towards the front and past a few more cars. At the start of lap 19, Billy found his way to 7th in class. But half way through the lap the car lost drive. Billy coasted his way to pits; a broken drive shaft and differential were found and the car was pushed to the garage. An hour and half past before the repairs were completed and Matt Connolly set out to finish the race. The duo finished the race in 42nd overall and 19th in class, with 32 laps out of 74 laps completed.
With the persistent rain and Connolly's crash on Thursday, Billy Johnson missed a lot of valuable track time during the weekend. The fact that he was able to bring the car from 24th to 7th in under 20-laps in his first GT race is a testament to the immense talent Billy Johnson possesses. Billy's future lies in the sponsorship his management team can generate during the off-season. A full season in the GT class in the Grand-Am Rolex Series is what he would like to do. He has shown the ability and maturity to be competitive in this prestigious series. The talent and determination is there, now all he needs is the opportunity!