Billy Johnson is hoping to ‘keep building’ the momentum within Alegra Motorsports as the WEC GTE-Pro race-winner makes his Blancpain GT World Challenge America debut this weekend at Watkins Glen International.
Johnson has been brought into the Florida-based team as a replacement to Michael de Quesada for the remainder of the World Challenge America season, driving alongside Daniel Morad in the team’s No. 22 Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“I’ve known the team for a long time,” Johnson told Sportscar365. “One of the engineers, Larry Hahn, I’ve known for most of my career. That was a key part of that, knowing Larry.
“I was supposed to drive in 2016 the DP with Daniel at the Twelve Hours of Sebring. But the week beforehand it was announced I got the Ford GT ride, so there was a conflict of interest with that and I didn’t drive that car.
“I actually shook this car down earlier this year.
“I’ve worked with them in the past, I’ve known all of the guys for a long time.
“I’ve known Daniel for a long time. They had a need for a driver and said I was at the top of their list when Micheal had to focus more on his studies.”
While having prior Porsche experience, both in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Johnson said adapting to the second-generation 991-based GT3 contender hasn’t been a challenge.
“I’d say this new 991 platform drives less like a stereotypical Porsche than the 997 or especially the 996s,” he said.
“This drives more like a mid-engined car and doesn’t have as much of the quirks, so it’s not as big of a transition.”
Johnson said he’s upbeat on the final three events of the year, despite the two-car Porsche squad yet to break into victory lane.
Teammates Wolf Henzler and Marco Holzer sit fifth in the GT3 Pro title race, one position behind Morad and de Quesada, who is not slated to take part in any more races this season.
“I’m really excited to be doing the [remaining] races,” Johnson said. “It’s more races with an awesome team and co-driver I like. We’ll see.
“They’ve had some really strong runs in the past and hopefully we can continue that momentum and build off of it and hopefully get even better results.”
Johnson: No Clash With Multimatic, Ford Commitments
Johnson, who has remained contracted to Multimatic following Ford’s exit from the FIA World Endurance Championship, said the Canadian-based firm had no problems with him contesting GT3 races in a different brand.
“I’m very thankful for Larry [Holt] and everybody for their support,” he said.
“There’s no competing cars, especially with Ford, in the series. Everyone gave their blessing and I’m thankful to drive for them and work for very great people like that.”
Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report