Newly appointed Volt Racing team manager Mike Johnson says the team’s offseason changes have the second-year squad primed for success in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge GS class.
The team made its debut with Alan Brynjolfsson and Chris Hall teamed in a McLaren 570S GT4 before making the switch to the Ford Mustang GT4 halfway through the season at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Johnson, who most recently served in the team manager role at Stevenson Motorsports, came on board for the final two races of last year at Laguna Seca and Road Atlanta at the request of Brynjolfsson.
Despite his short time with the team last year, Johnson said he could see the foundations of a winning program which paved the way to him joining the outfit for 2018.
“Even at the Road Atlanta weekend, we probably could have been on the podium,” Johnson told Sportscar365.
“Alan, as a first year driver, was pretty competitive. When you have a really strong starting driver like that it gives you good hope for doing well.
“Then he went out and hired who he felt was one of the best finishing drivers out there in Trent Hindman who’s already a series champion.
“I really feel confident that if we keep the mistakes to a minimum we should be pretty strong contenders for a few race wins and potentially a top three, top five in the championship.”
The team has a different look to it entering the season opener at Daytona later this month, most notably with Hindman joining Brynjolfsson behind the wheel and with Johnson managing the operation.
Behind the scenes, Volt has settled into its new abode at Chris Vallee’s Speed Syndicate Motorsports shop in St. Petersburg, Fla. and added Mustang expert Joe Cowart to the mix.
After a first season characterized by change, Johnson says the team has survived the growing pains and now has the stability necessary for a breakout season.
“From what I understand, the team changed structures quite a few times [last year],” he said.
“I think they moved shops once or twice, they had some personnel moving up and down, and it kind of went back and forth.
“Once they took it to Chris Vallee’s shop in St. Petersburg, and then they brought Joe Cowart who’s probably worked on every single Mustang to race in [Continental Tire Challenge], he’s on board and he brings so much knowledge.
“And Chris, for a young guy who has never really headed up a full program, he’s a really good engineer and has a great work ethic. And then it was just a few pieces here and there.
“I didn’t change a thing. Chris had it the way he wanted and I don’t go in there and restructure everything unless I have to.
“Right now, there’s good people in good places and my job is to get the best out of everybody.”
One area where Johnson expects his impact to be felt right away is during pit stops which have been a focus for the team throughout the offseason.
“What we realized in Conti last year with the Camaro is there are so many new teams and there continues to be so many new teams,” he said. “When there’s new teams there’s new people, and for them it’s about understanding what the standard is.
“With the two races that we won with the Camaro last year, we would come into pit lane, do our four tires, and leave 30 to 40 seconds before our competitors.
“You’ve got these new teams and that’s just as fast as they can do it, so you say no, this has to be done in thirty seconds.
“You work with them and say this is where your hands have to go, this is how you move, this is how you do this, and you show them those things and knock off five to ten seconds at a time.
“It’s about making sure you’re putting your effort into the right things.
“There’s so many things you can work on, but if you work on the wrong things you’re never going to win races.”