News Mark WalkerMark Walker May 29, 2020 (Comments off) (75)

DICK JOHNSON: COPPING A PINEAPPLE TO THE BACK OF THE HEAD

IN the second part of our retro chat with Dick Johnson, we find that motorsport sponsor activations have somewhat changed over the decades. Probably for the better!

WORDS & IMAGES: Mark Walker

If you missed the first part of this chat, you can read all about it right here.

As explained in part one, this chat took place back in 2003, trackside at the Historic Racing Car Club event at Queensland Raceway, which came a week after the V8 Supercar circus raced at the venue.

The event played host to the second annual John French Trophy for Group C tourers, with local ace Stephen Voight getting behind the wheel of the number 17 Falcon hardtop, after Dick warmed it up with some early morning demo laps.

V8 Sleuth are publishing a book on the history of the cars of Dick Johnson Racing and DJR Team Penske, click here to order online

Sharing the track with Dick was one Kevin Bartlett, behind the wheel of an Allan Moffat-spec Mazda RX7.

All told, there were 15 Group C cars in action that day with various interesting tales to tell, while the field was to be expanded in subsequent years following the addition of pre-1992 Group A racers to the historic ranks.

TRT – Do you miss the days of running sheepskin seat covers in the car?

DJ – Mate, you wouldn’t believe what that would do to me sitting on the grid, it was unbelievable…

TRT – I remember pictures of you throwing pineapples and peanuts into the crowd at Bathurst one year…

DJ – It was a bit of Queensland theme, because Joh Bjelke Petersen was the Premier at that stage, and he came from Kingaroy, which was all about peanuts, and everyone thought pineapples came from Queensland, which they do. But when you saw the looks on these people’s faces when you were throwing this stuff over the fence to them… I don’t know if you’ve ever been hit in the back of the head by a pineapple, but I know there were a couple of very bruised people left at the end of it!

TRT – Do you miss Lakeside?

DJ – Lakeside would have to be without a doubt one of the best race circuits I have ever seen, and ever will see. It had an awful lot of character, and you had to be very committed. A lot of people said it was unsafe, but the walls were that close to the racetrack, that wouldn’t gain any speed if you went off the track before you hit them. Probably the only dangerous spot was at the end of the main straight, it was like going off a launching ramp if you had a catastrophic failure.

TRT – The 1981 Touring Car Championship decider at Lakeside between you and Peter Brock has gone down as a classic.

DJ – It was one of those races that was more a classic race than anything else, and will probably go down as one of the better races we have ever seen. Just to have the support of the crowd in your home town was fantastic. Whoever won the race between me and Peter would take out the title, and it was a wheel-to-wheel race duel for the whole 35 laps. It was a great feeling to get to the end and be in front.

TRT – The feature race here today for the Group Cs is the John French Trophy. You’ve got some pretty special memories with John at Bathurst in 1981.

DJ – Absolutely, he joined me in the Tru Blu car in ’81, and after that horror race the year before we went on to win the race. It really helped to pay back all of the people who helped us in the previous year.

TRT – You raced a few different XCs over the years, which is this particular car that you drove here this weekend?

DJ – This particular car is the one that was rented from Jim Richards after I hit the fence on the first lap after a bump at Oran Park in a 300km race. So we had to rent this car for the Lakeside round a couple of weeks later. We went out there and put the thing on pole for the Touring Car Championship round, and we were leading the race until three or four laps from the end when it copped a stone through the radiator and started overheating.

TRT – How hard are these cars to get off the start line?

DJ – Yeah not too bad, so long as you didn’t get to the point where they would get axle tramp, they are great. The problem with these things is that when you get on the brakes, the old two-doors used to lock up the rear wheels, and when they locked up the rear wheels they were an awesome piece of equipment!

V8 Sleuth are publishing a book on the history of the cars of Dick Johnson Racing and DJR Team Penske, click here to order online

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