Podium Finish in WEC Round 2 at Spa
SPA, Belgium – The GTE Pro cars came in two-by-two at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium today. This time it was Ferrari that took the win and second place, closely followed by two Ford GTs in third and fourth, then two Porsches and two Aston Martins.
It was the No. 66 Ford GT crew of Stefan Mücke (GER), Olivier Pla (FRA) and Billy Johnson (US) that stood on the podium after six hours of hard racing. After starting the race in second place they looked like strong contenders for the win with Pla enjoying a close fight with the sister Ford GT of Harry Tincknell (GB) and the two Ferraris in the opening stages. Johnson suffered at the hands of an LMP2 car that spun him around on his out lap and was later penalised for doing so and ultimately an unfortunately timed Full Course Yellow put paid to the No. 66 crew’s fight for the win.
“We had a really good fight with the Ferraris at the beginning of the race today,” said Pla. “Unfortunately I lost a position when I got stuck in traffic through Eau Rouge but there was nothing I could do. Because of this we decided to stay on the same set of tyres for the second half of my double stint, which wasn’t easy as the track was still very green. It wasn’t so bad in the end as we took third place, despite losing time with a Full Course Yellow, and we weren’t too far from the Ferraris.”
Never a man to be happy with third place, Multimatic Vice-President Larry Holt summed up the thoughts of the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team after the race.
“I’m never happy if we don’t win,” said Holt. “In reality we had a problem with both cars. We had the fuel issue with the No. 67 at the first stop and unfortunately #66 was in the pits when the Full Course Yellow happened which probably cost us around 40 seconds. Without those two issues I think you would have seen two Fords and two Ferraris battling it out for the win.
“P1 and P4 at Silverstone and P3 and P4 here at Spa racks up the points and proves that we can be competitive with Ferrari going into Le Mans. Before we had our issues it was a great race so if you want to see another great Ford vs Ferrari battle at Le Mans it’s looking pretty good.”
The next round of the FIA World Endurance Championship is the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours.
4th Place Finish in WEC Season Opener at Silverstone
Yellow flags once again took a turn for the worse for Johnson, Pla, and Mucke.
At the start of the WEC season opener at Silverstone, Stefan Mucke kept the No. 68 in the front of the pack while the No. 67 sister car suffered from mechanical issues that found themselves nearly a lap down and 30 minutes off the pit sequence of the rest of the field.
During Johnson's stint, the skies opened up as typical in British fashion, and Johnson extended the race lead over the rest of the field despite remaining on slick tires. As the track dried out, the No. 7 Toyota P1 car fount its way into the wall which brought out a long Full Course Yellow and eventually a very rare Safety Car which erased Johnson's 30-second lead as well as the 90-second deficit of the No. 67 Ford GT.
During the Safety Car, the majority of the field pitted for fuel behind Johnson, and the 67 Ford GT's off-sequence strategy due to the early race troubles put them in ideal position relative to the rest of the field. During the remaining hours of the race, the 67's strategy turned out to work in their favor and put them in a 40-second lead over the rest of the field, and the No. 68 was disadvantaged due to not pitting from the lead which found them at the back of the queue.
Despite a damper issue early in the race which didn't hurt the No. 68's outright speed too much, Olivier Pla fought hard to bring the car home in 4th place
Top 5 Finish in the 12 Hours of Sebring
After a last minute decision to field a 3rd Ford GT for the 12 Hours of Sebring, Johnson who was again joined by teammates Olivier Pla and Stefan Mucke in the No. 68 Ford GT to finish fifth in the 65th running of the famed and grueling race.
Johnson led the race for much of his last two hour stint with just over two hours remaining in the race. Pit strategy and a full course yellow flag did not work in the favor of the trio of Ford GTs, which found themselves in the back of the queue and disadvantaged after the full course yellow. In the remaining hour of the race, Stefan Mucke fought hard to bring home the No. 68 home in a top 5 finish.
Johnson teams up with Pla & Mucke in the #68 Ford GT for the Rolex 24
Johnson rejoins his 24 Hours of LeMans teammates Frenchman Olivier Pla and German Stefan Mucke to compete in the 2017 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in Ford's four car effort driving the No. 68 Ford GT.
Billy Johnson to Drive in Ford Chip Ganassi Racing's Four-Car Effort in the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona
DEARBORN, Mich. -- Not since last summer’s Le Mans 24 Hours have all four Ford GTs in the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing stable competed for the same prize. That will change at the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona in January, where the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship teams will unite for one goal -- winning the coveted top step of the podium of a 24-hour race on American soil.A full four-car effort in the Rolex 24 is a continuation of the historical trail the current Ford GT team has been following, one that was blazed by the original GT40s of the 1960s. Those earlier cars won the most important endurance racing titles around the world, including the Rolex 24, the 12 Hours of Sebring, and the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing may have ticked off one box in that legendary list in the debut year, but there is still work to do.
“It would be easy to just talk about what we’ve already done with this Ford GT but really we’re focused on the future,” said Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance. “We didn’t have the strongest race at the Rolex 24 last year but we have a season of learning experiences behind us with this program now and we’re proud that when we come back to Daytona in 2017, we’ll come with all four Ford GTs.”
The Ford GT program won six races and started from the front of the grid eight times in 2016, with victories coming at Laguna Seca, Watkins Glen, Mosport, Le Mans, Fuji and Shanghai.
“Even with the success we had last season winning six races, I think we have some unfinished business in Daytona,” said Chip Ganassi, owner, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, who with the 2016 Le Mans win became the only team owner in history to win the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, Rolex 24 At Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and the Le Mans 24 Hours. “The Rolex 24 last year was our first big test to see where we were with the program, and although we didn’t win, I can tell you that we learned a lot. We also learned a lot in Le Mans working with all four cars through the 24 hours. I’m excited we have another opportunity to assemble the full lineup for Daytona. The opportunity to compete with all four cars at the same time, in a race as prestigious as Daytona, is very special.”
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing will again campaign four Ford GTs full time for its second year of competition -- two in the North American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and two in the global FIA World Endurance Championship.
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Billy Johnson is an American professional race car driver competing in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing in the #66 Ford GT and the 2016 IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge GS champion for Ford/Multimatic Motorsports in the #15 Ford Performance Shelby GT350R-C with co-driver Scott Maxwell.
With 23 wins to his name, Billy is the winningest driver in CTSCC history. In addition, Billy has multiple GT class podium finishes for Turner Motorsports, driving the BMW M3 in the IMSA GTD Class.
Johnson is a test driver for Multimatic and Ford Performance and helped develop the LeMans winning Ford GT racecar, Championship winning Shelby GT350R-C, Mustang GT4, FP350S racecars, as well as street cars including the GT350, GT350R, and Ford GT.
He has been called to drive in numerous endurance races including the 24 Hours of LeMans in the #66 Ford GT, 24 Hours of Daytona in the #77 Doran Racing Ford Daytona Prototype, the 12 Hours of Sebring in the #007 Aston Martin Vantage to the #64 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 to the #97 Turner Motorsport Z4 GT3.
Johnson is also a road-course specialist in the NASCAR Xfinity series and is hired by Ford to teaching advanced techniques to Ford's Sprint Cup and XFinity drivers on road course racing.
Driving for Roush Fenway Racing with a career-best 8th place finish in the #60 at Montreal in 2012, Johnson made his oval racing debut at Loudon in 2013 in a Nationwide car finishing an impressive 15th position on the lead lap. He also led laps in the #16 at Road America.
Billy is an 8-time track record holder in Time Attack events driving an assortment of cars but most notable for piloting the FXMD Turbo NSX, the fastest Time Attack car in the country.
Billy currently resides in Lake Worth, FL.