March 2, 2016 | General


STEVEN JOHNSON says he hopes his Touring Car Masters cameo at this weekend’s Clipsal 500 Adelaide will lead to a full-season in the series for classic Muscle Cars this year.

A last-minute deal to race a Ford Falcon GTHO owned by fellow competitor Tony Karanfilovski ensured that Johnson – who won four rounds from five starts last year driving John Bowe’s Ford Mustang – made the Clipsal 500 grid.

Johnson a former V8 Supercars round winner and the son of V8 hall of famer Dick Johnson this weekend joins the likes of John Bowe Jim Richards Glenn Seton Andrew Miedecke and Rusty French on a grid packed with famous surnames.

The deal to run this weekend was only finalised on Sunday thanks to the support of several of Johnson’s long-time personal supporters car owner Karanfilovski – who will race his own Ford Mustang this weekend – and vehicle preparer Steve Makarios.

“It all got signed off and got the go ahead on Sunday so it was very late†Johnson explained.

“We would have loved to have done something with JB’s Mustang but we weren’t able to do that but Tony has been awesome in letting us prep his car and get it race ready.

“At this stage it’s just a one-round deal. We wanted to get it to Clipsal get it started and kick the season off and then see what we could put together from there. I’m hoping it can turn into a full season in the Falcon in the Mustang or something else – but we had to be out there and get the runs on the board.

“I was originally going to drive this car at the Muscle Car Masters event last year but we had engine troubles in testing and we didn’t get there – so it’s great that it’s all been able to come together.â€Â

Despite the last-minute nature of the deal Johnson and Makarios’ Synergy Race engineering shop have still been able to conjure up a stunning livery for this weekend’s Adelaide event.

Already painted white the addition of green stripes and period branding has the GTHO Falcon closely resembling the iconic ‘Super Falcon’ raced in the early 1970s by Australian Touring Car legend Ian ‘Pete’ Geoghegan.

The Super Falcon is one of the most iconic Australian-built Touring Cars of its era and was renowned for winning a race dubbed ‘the best ever at Bathurst’ when Geoghegan defeated Allan Moffat’s famous Coke Mustang by a narrow margin at the Easter 1972 Touring Car round.

Johnson says the tribute livery goes beyond honouring one of the greats of the sport.

“Pete and my dad were mates and actually shared the same birthday†he explained.

“Pete was five years older but on their birthday’s they’d get on the phone to each other and have a chat. It’s a great story and in a way this livery isn’t just a tribute to Pete but to dad as well.

“The car looks incredible and hopefully it’s something that the fans are going to love and appreciate and really get behind.â€Â

Johnson attributed a mighty effort from long-time TCM entrant and engineer Steve Makarios’ in putting the program together for this weekend.

“The boys were at the shop until 5am Tuesday morning went home for an hour and came back and got right into it again just to get this ready. It’s been a huge effort†he explained.

“The car has a new engine and the boys have been through it all. It’s got lots of good gear in it but it hasn’t run for 18 months so we just need the car to be consistent run all weekend problem free and then we can work on the handling and all the nice things that can make it go faster.

“The Clipsal 500 is a tough event so we just want to get through it and go from there.â€Â

Introduced into TCM competition by long-time family friend and teammate John Bowe early last year (Johnson subbed for Bowe when sponsor commitments kept him from racing at the Tasmanian round last March) the former V8 Supercar full-timer now has his sights set firmly on competing in the series on a more permanent basis.

“I’m really excited to be back in. Tony Karanfilovski (car owner) and Tony Hunter from TCM has been great to work with in putting all this together. I love the series and love being there with all the people in it.

“If we can come in and help the category grow its audience then that’s great. It’s a lot of fun and I would love to get more guys into building cars and growing the category.â€Â

Johnson and the Mark II Super Falcon will tackle practice on Thursday ahead of qualifying and race on this Friday race two on Saturday and the finale’ on Sunday morning.

All Touring Car Masters sessions following practice one will be broadcast live on FOX Sports with coverage on free-to-air on Network Ten across the weekend as well.

By Richard Craill for