Steven Johnson insists he is not done as a full-time V8 Supercars driver and hopes his stint in the PIRKTEK Enduro Cup, alongside Maro Engel, will springboard him back into the series.
Johnson, who stepped down as a driver from family team Dick Johnson Racing ahead of this season, is adamant he wants to steer his own car in 2014 and told v8supercars.com.au teams had expressed interest in having him.
“There’s no doubt I’d love to be back in a full-time drive,” Johnson said.
“And not necessarily DJR – I’m looking everywhere. So that’s a priority for next year, to get back in there.
“Certainly I enjoy that a lot more than sitting behind a desk, I’ll tell you.”
He believes there are drives available and the coming month would further determine the 2014 grid.
“Surprisingly, there’s a bit of room to move out there – I think the next month or so will play a big part in what happens, where people go and what people do.
“There’s certainly people interested in having me around.”
One of the most experienced co-drivers in the field, it was undoubtedly a coup for Erebus Motorsport V8 to pick up Johnson, who has provided invaluable assistance to rookie Engel at the last two events.
And despite not having raced in the SP Tools Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG yet, Johnson has felt fresh and motivated to get to the track as part of the new outfit.
His role as General Manager at DJR has been put on hold and he has spent the last two events exclusively at EMV8, traveling with the team, sitting in on all debriefs and working on relationships with crew members.
“I maybe went up and said g’day to Dad a couple of times – but that’s about it. I spent all my time down here and want to get in the rhythm of how they do things here … I try to put in some ideas and build that relationship as quickly as I can because it means a hell of a lot when it comes to the endurance races, to know how each other think.”
While the team’s other co-drivers Craig Baird (pairing with Lee Holdsworth in the IRWIN Tools car) and Andrew Thompson (with Tim Slade in the Heavy Haulage Australia Racing #47) were with the team last year, Johnson is a fresh face, so to speak.
“We’re certainly the new kids on the block – and that’s the only time I can say that about myself because I’ve been around forever!” Johnson laughed.
“I might lend you my rookie status,” Engel chimed in. The two seemed to be gelling well, joking they’re like an old married couple now.
Working with Erebus Motorsport V8 has no doubt helped Johnson get the spring back in his step.
“I was at DJR a long time and to come here and do my own thing, to be honest, the last few race meetings I really enjoyed doing what I needed to do here.
“I guess it’s a little bit of a breath of fresh air for me – obviously I was getting a bit stale where I was and had lots of ups and downs. But this is a fresh start.
“I’m a lot more motivated to get out of bed and get to the track because I actually can’t wait to get here.”
The obstacles DJR faced have been well-publicised and not having to stress about off-track challenges is bringing out the best in ‘Junior Johnson’.
“Now I don’t have that worry I can get out there and give it my all and see what we’ve got for the endurance races,” he said.
“Hopefully I can come back better and stronger next year in a full-time drive…
“I’m going to do what’s best for myself. And I’m really relishing the opportunity to stand on my own two feet and do my own thing here – no one can say I’m underneath my father’s shadow here, he’s up the other end of pit lane and I want to beat them as much as everyone else does.
“Don’t get me wrong, I hope they have a good run. I just hope we have a hell of a lot of a better run!”