Feature Dale Rodgers March 9, 2024 (Comments off) (303)

Set to Jett: The Third-Gen Johnson

There have been many dynasties in Australian Motorsport, but few can boast three generations.

The Johnson family is one that spans over 50 years of racing and carries one of the most famous names in the sport’s history.

This fact is not lost on the youngest member, Jett Johnson. While he is proud to continue the family legacy, the young Super 2 driver wants to make his own mark and build his own story based on his ability and not just his surname.

“This year is going to be different in the way I approach my racing. That Johnson name on the window is my name, it’s not anyone else’s name,” Johnson told The Race Torque’s Dale Rodgers on the eve of his first Super 2 drive at Bathurst.

“I am here to make my own identity. Obviously, we have an incredible amount of support because of what Grandpa and Dad have built up over many many years, but at the same time I have to put in my own work now. I’ve got to create my own identity. I am out there doing the best for me,” he said.

“Obviously, I want to make Dad and Grandad proud, but number one is doing the best for myself,” Johnson added.

But like every young driver striving to get to the top, there is always a long pathway, no matter what the family name.

Jett’s father Steve has been working with Jett since his Karting days playing manager, sponsor negotiator and driving coach along with his own racing in TCM and his Team Johnson race workshop. Whilst the progression through Karting, Hyundai Excel’s, Super 3 and now Super 2 looks textbook, it has not been all that easy.

“A lot of it happened by circumstance,” Steve recounted.

“We always had an ambition, but it really wasn’t a clear path to see if we were going to get there. A big part of it is what we could afford. At the start, we were going racing and doing everything ourselves and not relying on a team or other people to do stuff for us. Prepping cars, taking them to the track and doing pretty much everything right up until this year’s Super 2 campaign,” Johnson added.

The progression in the sport not only adds workload and resources, but every step also gets more expensive. Johnson decided to send Jett down the Excel and TA2 route rather than a Formula Ford option as it was clear that any future lay in a sedan-based formula.

“We decided to go down the TA2 and Trans Am route, which I thought was fantastic,” Steve noted.

“We may well do some more TA2 races again, as it is such a great category. It led to Super 3 last year, which was originally going to be another year of Trans Am. The Super 3 year with the Kelly’s led us to make the decision for us to go Super 2 in 2024. I feel it is the right decision, and we have a great team and great people around us.” Johnson added.

Johnson has joined forces with the emerging Ford squad AIM Motorsport. Team boss Andy Morse has hired some exceptional talent, including Adam DeBorre and Eric Pender. He is teamed up with Zane Morse, who produced some strong results in 2023. A third car is also being run for James Masterton.

The progression through each category and the increased competition is not lost on Jett.

“I still look back at days when I first drove the Trans Am. It was an incredible car and an incredible feeling to drive a ‘proper’ race car. But the days now are a lot more serious than what they were back then,” Jett said.

“Looking at my first Super 3 drive and now stepping into Super 2, a lot of it is all about learning the car and trying to progress each day as much as I can. The level we operate now compared with back then is very different,” he said.

Learning each category and coming to grips with the car, the team environment and the competitors is all part of a young driver’s development. Johnson Jnr likened the step from Hyundai Excels to TA2 as moving from crawling to running. However, the step to Super 3 was not nearly as big.

“I was able to relate a lot of my driving in the Trans Am to the Supercar. A lot of it was confidence in being able to drive a new car,” Johnson said.

The 2023 Super 3 Championship record books will show that Jett Johnson was the runner-up to winner Jobe Stewart. Consistency and points scoring were critical factors in that result during the 2023 season.

“The biggest thing that played in our favour was the consistency. We finished every race without drama. We had a couple of minor incidents in practice and qualifying but the year ran smoothly and it was a great year for me to learn and progress. That was always our aim,” he said.

Jett’s 2024 goals are clear.

“The biggest thing for me is learning. I need to build on the skills I have this year. Dad and Grandpa have always said there is no point binning the car on the first lap as you don’t learn anything. I want to finish as many races as I can and don’t want to wobble around in last place,” Johnson commented.

“Building my skills this year and hopefully having a good starting point to contest the Super 2 Championship in 2025.”

2025 will be the year that defines if the third generation Johnson can progress even further up the ladder to a co drive and ultimately a seat in the main Repco Supercars Championship.

Steve added additional perspective to the future.

“I’m all for not pushing my kids to do stuff too early. Whether Jett makes it, if he makes it in Supercars if he is twenty-one or twenty-three it really doesn’t matter,” Steve said.

Steve himself will be trying to spread the load of his own racing program and Jett’s career as, by his own admission, he has just taken on too much. A factor that had quite a severe effect on his health in late 2023.

But at Bathurst for the opening round of the Repco Supercars Championship, the Johnson name once again featured in two categories. Fittingly both were Ford mounted in Mustangs of totally different eras.

For Jett, Super 2 was the baptism of fire that so often occurs. Qualifying saw him towards the rear of the field in both races and a Red Flag pile up in the Cutting saw the #117 Titan Caravans / NAPA Mustang involved in a race ending crash. The AIM Motorsport team’s 2.00 AM Sunday morning finish saw the car back on track for the final qualifying and race.

The Sunday race fared far better for Johnson. With the pack sorting itself out for a one-lap dash following a Safety Car period, the Titan Caravans Mustang moved up to P.13, giving Jett an overall position of fifteenth for the weekend.

As Steve and Jett said prior to the races getting underway, 2024 is all about learning, and there were tons of that to be had at Mt Panorama. The second round of the 2024 Dunlop Super 2 Championship takes place in Perth in mid-May.

You might also like!