- April 26, 1945
- Not Active
Dick Johnson is an Australian former racing driver and co-owner of the V8 Supercar team DJR Team Penske. As a driver, he won the Australian Touring Car Championship five times and triumphed three times at the famous Bathurst 1000 race. He founded his own team Dick Johnson Racing in 1980. In 2014, Team Penske purchased 51% of the team and rebranded it to DJR Team Penske.
Dick Johnson 's early life
Richard Dick Johnson was born on April 26th, 1945, in Queensland, Australia. After leaving school, Johnson was drafted into the Australian Army at the age of 20. He spent two years in the Army, stationed together with his future rival Peter Brock, although they did not know each other at the time.
Johnson started to race in November 1964 at Lakeside International Raceway, driving a Holden. In the following years he occasionally competed with Holdens, scoring his first point in the 1970 Australian Touring Car Championship with Holden Torana LC GTR at Lakeside.
Bathurst debut and a 5th place in 1973
His GTR was upgraded to XU-1 specifications in 1971 and Johnson competed in three races of the ATCC, finishing 13th in the final standings. In 1972, he scored his first podium and next year he debuted at Bathurst. Johson and Bob Forbes were driving Holden LJ Torana GTR XU-1 at the 1973 Hardie-Ferodo 1000 and finished 5th.
During 1974, Johnson competed with Holden Dealer Team's Torana at the Surfers Paradise and finished 3rd. At 1974 Bathurst, he raced alongside John French in the Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV, but they never finished the race.
Ford story begun in 1976
Johnson switched to Ford in 1976, competing at Bathurst with Ford Capri RS 3100. He and Graham Moore finished 10th overall and third in their class. Since then, Johnson was driving Fords and in the decades to come, Ford became his trademark. He competed with Bryan Byrt's Ford Falcon at Bathurst in 1977 and 1978, together with Vern Schuppan. In 1977 they retired, and year later they finished 5th. In 1979, Johnson's co-driver was Gary Scott and he retired again.
The Bryan Byrt Racing team folded at the end of the 1979 season, but Johnson was able to utilise some of its resources to establish his own team. Dick Johnson Racing was founded in 1980 and it was originally based in Johnson's home in Daisy Hill, Brisbane's southern suburbs.
Infamous rock almost ruined Johnson's new team
In 1980, the famous crash against the rock happened at the Bathurst 1000. Johnson was driving Ford XD Falcon and led for the first 17 laps. Then he hit a football-sized rock thrown to the track by some drunken fans. After the crash, numerous racing fans supported Johnson and pledged money to help the team get back on its feet.
The journalists and TV channels helped in spreading the news of this, so at the end, the Ford Motor Company of Australia provided a new car shell and promised a donation. In total, $144,000 was collected and the team was back on the track.
First Australian championship title in 1981
Inspired by the support of Australian public, Johnson succeed in winning the 1981 Australian Touring Car Championship, after a thrilling duel with Peter Brock which went down to the last race of the series at his home track at Lakeside. Johnson finished the race one second ahead of Brock, and according to many, it was one of the best touring car races ever seen in Australia.
Maiden win at 1981 Bathurst 1000
1981 would also be remember for a glorious maiden victory of Dick Johnson at Bathurst 1000. For the first time, the race did not go the full distance as it was stopped on Lap 121, after a six-car accident blocked the track at McPhillamy Park Corner. The Ford XD Falcon of Dick Johnson and John French were leading the race at the time of the accident and were declared the winners.
Johnson repeated the success at Australian Touring Car Championship again in 1982, although he actually finished second in points behind Peter Brock, but Brock's use of not approved engine parts got him disqualified.
Disqualification at 1982 Bathurst 1000
Johnson was disqualified at 1982 Bathurst 1000, because of illegal engine modifications on his brand-new Ford XE Falcon. In his biography, Johnson claims that the car was legal, but the team did not have the money to fight the ruling.
The 1982 Bathurst race became the milestone race in a history of Australian racing because it was the first time that Johnson's car carried Channel 7's Racecam unit, so the television viewers had a live footage from inside the car. It made Johnson popular with the general public and motorsport fans.
In the 1983 Australian Touring Car Championship, Johnson's XD Falcon was not competitive against the Commodores, the Nissan Bluebird turbo or Allan Moffat's Mazda RX-7, which won the title. Johnson finished sixth in the standings.
Heavy crash at the Mountain
At the 1983 Bathurst 1000, Johnson's Falcon was one of the favourites. He set the second fastest time in the qualifying. During the Hardies Heroes Top 10 runoff on a Saturday morning, Johnson had a major accident, when he ran slightly wide at Forrest's Elbow, crashed and went into trees. The car was destroyed, but Johnson suffered minor injuries only.
After the crash, fellow Falcon runner and reporter Andrew Harris, offered his car to the Johnson team. The deal was made with Harris, who got to drive the Holden VH Commodore. Johnson's team prepared the Falcon while the Commodore was re-painted in the colours of Harris' sponsors. Unfortunately for Johnson and his new co-driver Kevin Bartlett, they raced for only 61 laps before they withdraw from the race, because of terminal electrical malfunction. On the other side, Harris and his co-driver Gary Cooke finished tenth and Harris won the Rookie of the Year award.
Third championship title in the final Group C season
Dick Johnson Racing was using a new XE Falcon in the 1984 Australian Touring Car Championship and he took his third championship title, after consistent run over the season and seven podiums in seven races, including a victory at Surfers Paradise.
It was a final championship to be run under the locally developed Group C cars. In 1985, the change to the international Group A rules followed and Johnson purchased a pair of Zakspeed constructed Ford Mustangs for the Australian championship. The car was outperformed by Jim Richard's BMW 635 CSi, who won the title ahead of Johnson. Johnson's only win was in the Group A support race of the F1 Australian Grand Prix.
Johnson and Perkins in a Mustang against Jaguars
For Bathurst, Johnson signed triple champion Larry Perkins to be his new co-driver. Against the Tom Walkinshaw Racing's three V12 Jaguar XJSs, Johnson qualified fourth and ran strongly in the race until his cars' oil cooler broke. Johnson and Perkins finished seventh.
With the arrival of Group A Holden Commodore and the new turbocharged Nissan Skyline, the Mustang wasn't competitive and Johnson could only finish sixth in the 1986 ATCC season, with a best finish of 4th in the opening round at Amaroo Park.
For Sandown and Bathurst endurance races, the team signed a former Grand Prix motorcycle star Gregg Hansford to be Johnson's co-driver. Johnson qualified the car in sixth place and finished fourth in the race, driving with a broken bone in his foot.
Introduction of Ford Sierra
In 1987, the team switched to the Ford Sierra RS Cosworth and got a sponsorship deal with Shell, and that story lasted for 17 years. The new turbocharged Sierra was unreliable and Johnson recorded only one victory in the 1987 Australian Touring Car Championship at the Adelaide International Raceway, finishing sixth in the final standings. Johnson retired at the Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000, but the year ended well with a victory in the Group A support race at the Australian Grand Prix in November.
NASCAR in Australia
Early in 1988, Johnson debuted in NASCAR, in a race held at then new Calder Park Thunderdome in Melbourne on February 28th. The race was the first ever NASCAR event held outside of North America. He was driving Ford Thunderbird, but crashed early in the race.
In the 1988 Australian Touring Car Championship, Johnson dominated with Ford Sierra RS500, a machine way more powerful than the previous Sierra. He took the title with fantastic six wins in eight races and he also scored podiums at Sandown (3rd) and Bathurst (2nd).
Fifth title and second Bathurst win with Sierra RS500
With a championship winning car, Johnson competed in the RAC Tourist Trophy at Silverstone, which was a round of the European Touring Car Championship. Johnson easily qualified on pole and led in the race, but water pump failure slowed him down and sent him to the pits. The car eventually returned to the race to finish 21st, but Johnson set the fastest lap to prove that he had the world's fastest car in the class.
Naturally, Sierra RS500 was also the winning car at 1989 Bathurst 1000. Johnson was sharing the car with John Bowe. In the championship, Johnson took his fifth and final title, with four wins in eight races. In 1990, Johnson narrowly lost the ATCC to the Gibson Motor Sport Nissan GT-R of Jim Richards.
Seven NASCAR races in two seasons
Season 1989 and 1990 were marked by Johnson's NASCAR adventure in the United States. Supported by Palmer Tube Mills and American company Redkote, Johnson competed in the NASCAR Winston Cup with Ford Thunderbird. He entered seven races in two seasons, with the best start in 11th place at Sears Point Raceway and best finish at the 22nd place at Pocono Raceway.
Domination of Nissan
In the 1991 ATCC season, Johnson's team was again outpaced by Nissans. Dick finished ninth in the championship and retired at Bathurst 1000. The similar situation followed in 1992, with Johnson eight in the championship. The Sierras showed more speed at the Mount Panorama and Johnson claimed the pole at the 1992 Bathurst 1000 race, with the fastest ever time recorded by a Sierra. Johnson and Bowe finished second behind the Nissan GT-R of Jim Richards and Mark Skaife.
Third Bathurst win announcing the new V8 era
In 1993, the new V8 era started and Johnson was driving Ford EB Falcon. He finished 5th in the championship and 6th at Sandown 500, with retirement at Bathurst 1000.
The third victory at Bathurst 1000 for a 49-year-old Johnson followed in 1994, with John Bowe as a co-driver in the Ford EB Falcon. They reached the podium one more time in 1996, finishing second behind Craig Lowndes and Greg Murphy.
Father and son competed at Bathurst together
In 1998, Dick Johnson and John Bowe drove separate cars for the first time since 1988. Johnson was partnered by his son Steven Johnson but they didn't reach the finish. The father-son combination was successful at 1999 Bathurst 1000 when they finished fourth behind three Holdens.
It was Dick Johnson's last season, and in the year 2000 his son Steven took over the #17 Ford. Dick remained in charge of the team, but also focused on writing two autobiography books. He was inducted into the V8 Supercars Hall of Fame in 2001.
Dick Johnson Racing renamed to DJR Team Penske
In 2013, Steven Johnson became a Team Manager of Dick Johnson Racing. A year later, in September 2014, it was announced that Roger Penske bought a 51% stake in the team. The remaining 49% is retained by Johnson, Steve Brabeck and Ryan Story. The team was renamed to DJR Team Penske.
Dick Johnson Racing team (current DJR Penske) is based in Stayplton on the Gold Coast. The part of the factory is a Dick Johnson Museum, dedicated mainly to the cars that made Dick Johnson famous. Amongst all those cars, visitors can also see the infamous Bathurst rock which had a huge impact on the career of Mr. Dick Johnson.