Returning to Lime Rock Park this weekend, Michael Johnson is hoping to recreate some magic in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.
A paraplegic since age 12 following a motorcycle incident, Johnson scored a memorable first victory in the Pilot Challenge TCR class in last year’s race at Lime Rock.
This year, Johnson has experienced a tale of two seasons with his co-driver and coach Stephen Simpson and the rest of the JDC-Miller Motorsports team.
While 2018 brought six podium finishes in eight races for the No. 54 Audi RS3 LMS, the team was finally able to break through two weeks ago for its first top-five finish of 2019 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Midway through the 10-race schedule, the only other highlight for Johnson so far this year was earning the Motul Pole Award to start the season at Daytona.
“I got the pole at Daytona and it was starting to go well there, but it didn’t work out,” said Johnson. “Sebring, Watkins Glen, all these, it’s just been bad luck.
“We’ve had a lot of issues that we didn’t have last year. Hopefully we can rally, get some momentum, get a good result and just keep that going for the rest of the year and work for next year.”
The memory of the 2018 victory – which made national headlines and doubled as Johnson’s first professional sports car victory – lives on and serves as proof of the team’s capabilities.
In fact, a win was seemingly destined to come for the team after it scored finishes of fourth, third and second place successively in the three races leading up to the 2018 Lime Rock triumph.
Johnson hopes destiny will step in again to turn around the team’s luck, hopefully sooner rather than later.
“Last year was honestly amazing with that win and all of our hard work we put together,” said Johnson. “If we could just repeat that, that would be amazing. All the hard work we’ve put together this year, it’s been there.
“We just haven’t been able to put the results together. If we can just finalize it and actually make it come through, it’ll be like the icing on the cake for how 2019 has been.
“I think everyone has been working really hard, especially Cole (Scrogham), our engineer and Stephen Simpson and everybody. I know it’s coming. Our bad luck is going to turn around at some point, but we’ll just have to wait for that day.”
Coming off their best finish of the season and heading to what has become one of the team’s favorite tracks, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. If anything, Johnson, Simpson and the JDC-Miller Motorsports crew are ready for a battle at the “Bullring.”
“It’s a small track and there’s a ton of (Grand Sport) cars, so it’s going to be a battle out there,” said Johnson. “There’s going to be contact, there’s going to be a lot of action that goes on, so hopefully I can qualify well. That’s really how you’re going to win the race is to have a good car and qualify really well.
“It’s one of my favorite tracks. Of course, we won there last year, but I’ve also done Skip Barber there in the past. It’s a track that I’m used to and a track I can hopefully get more wins at.”