Dick Johnson Racing (or DJR) is Australia's oldest touring car team. Founded by legendary driver Dick Johnson, the team has won 6 Australian Touring Car Championship titles (5 of them by Johnson himself) and has taken 3 victories in Australia's hallmark race, the Bathurst 1000. The team campaign two Ford Falcons in the V8 Supercar championship, one bearing Dick Johnson's ubiquitous racing number 17.
After being only a sporadic entrant in the Australian Touring Car Championship (ATCC) during the early 70's, Johnson came to the fore when a change in regulations introduced the XD Falcon to the series, elevating him from everyday Joe to 'rock star' status overnight.
The tale of Johnson's battle with the rock at Bathurst in 1980 is now legendary, and it is a true testament to the Australian character that over $70,000 was donated by the public and Ford Australia to get him back on track for the following season.
Inspired by the support and feeling a great sense of debt to the Australian public, Dick went on to claim his first ATCC crown and Bathurst the following year.
With Allan Moffat defecting to Mazda and Johnson fast becoming an icon of the sport, the Queenslander became Ford's number one son in its battle with Holden's own golden-haired boy, Peter Brock.
While Johnson couldn't repeat his Bathurst victory in 1982, he did go on to win his second ATCC title in the Tru Blu XD Falcon and in 1984 claimed his third national crown with an XE Falcon painted green in honour of Ross Palmer's latest steel product, 'Greens Tuf'.
With no local Ford product suitable following a change in regulations at the end of 1984, Johnson turned to the US and imported a Mustang for the 1985 and 1986 seasons.
While the Mustang years brought limited success, reliability enabled Johnson to claim runner-up in the 1985 ATCC and his one and only victory aboard the Mustang in the 1985 AGP support race.
1987 saw the introduction of the revolutionary Ford Sierra Cosworth and the birth of the Shell Ultra Hi Racing Team. Shell's increased involvement allowed Johnson to expand into a two-car effort for the first time, Gregg Hansford becoming Johnson's first full time teammate.
But reliability problems let the team down considerably and only one win was recorded throughout the 1987 season. The end of the ATCC coincided with the arrival of Ford's latest rocket ship, the RS500, and this proved its worth with a win in the AGP race at Adelaide in November.
John Bowe joined the team the following year, and together Johnson and Bowe claimed eight of the nine rounds of the ATCC, finishing the year as national champions. Success continued in 1989 when the team claimed its second Bathurst victory.
As the new decade hit, so did the onslaught of Nissan, which made almost every other vehicle on the track obsolete with the introduction of its technologically advanced GT-R to the series. CAMS did its best to create an even field by adding more weight to the Nissan, but it quickly gained a reputation as the mechanical equivalent of Phar Lap - unstoppable!
DJR was kept busy in 1992, not only trying to combat the achievements of the Nissans, but also in developing its Falcons in readiness for the V8 Formula in 1993.
The first round of the V8 Championship was held at Amaroo Park, with John Bowe taking victory in the Shell Falcon. But the sweet smell of success didn't last long, with DJR failing to take another victory until the following season.
The wait proved to be well worth it, with Johnson and Bowe claiming both 1994 endurance races at Sandown and Bathurst.
DJR headed into 1995 brimming with confidence and it was not misplaced, with Bowe taking his first ATCC crown after a dominant display in the final round of the championship at Oran Park.
A repeat victory at Sandown that year augured well for another Bathurst win until an incident with Glenn Seton forced the number 17 Falcon from the lead, and subsequently, the track.
While Holden dominated the 1996 season, DJR still managed to pick up wins at the Indycar GP and was the first Ford home at Bathurst when Johnson and Bowe crossed the line in second place.
While 1997 was not a fantastic year compared to previous seasons, consistency enabled Bowe to claim the runner-up position in the championship. The team did not fare better in the end of year endurance races with the Johnson/Bowe car failing to finish both races while the team's second car, driven by Steven Johnson and Craig Baird, could only manage seventh at Sandown and fourth in the Primus 1000 at Bathurst.
1998 saw Johnson and Bowe team up for yet another season, and Bowe did all the celebrating, securing pole position in the opening round of the series and again at the team's home track, Lakeside. The first win of the season came at Winton, but unfortunately for the team it was all down hill from there.
For the first time in 11 years, Johnson and Bowe did not team up for the endurance events, Bowe sharing the number 18 car with Cameron McConville, while the father/son combination of Dick and Steven Johnson shared the other Falcon. Apart from a third place at Sandown for the Bowe/McConville combination, the team's run of bad luck continued with both cars failing to finish the FAI 1000 at Bathurst.
Not long after, John Bowe rocked the motor racing world by announcing that after 11 years he was leaving DJR to start afresh with another team. After an exhaustive search, two-time World Cup Touring Car Championship, Paul Radisich, was announced as his replacement.
1999 proved to be a difficult year for the team. Between coping with the idiosyncrasies of the new AU Falcon, coming to grips with the new Bridgestone control tyre and a new driver who had never seen, let alone raced on, the majority of the circuits, it was no wonder things were tough.
As the year progressed, things began to improve, with Radisich claiming his first Shell Championship pole before completely dominating the non-championship races at the Honda Indy.
Radisich's form carried over the Bathurst, where the Kiwi and his co-driver, Steven Ellery, were the class of the field, dominating the FAI 1000 until a flat tyre in the dying stages of the race robbed the team of victory.
The last year of the 20th Century also marked the retirement of the great man himself, Dick Johnson, who chose to share his final race with son, Steven. The pair staged a memorable assault on The Mountain, fighting for the lead throughout the race before eventually finishing in fourth place.
The start of the new millennium heralded the beginning of a new generation in the Shell Helix Racing Team; with Steven Johnson taking over the famous number 17 Falcon from his retiring father. After a full season behind the wheel, Paul Radisich had come to terms with the feel of the V8 and the circuits in the series, leaving him to finish the championship in fourth place in only his second attempt at the championship.
In Steven Johnson's first full year in the series, he also put in some credible performances, bringing his Shell Helix Falcon home in 11th place in the championship. Steven was joined for the Queensland 500 by father Dick, who made a one-off return to the driver's seat, but the pair failed to cross the line when mechanical difficulties left their Falcon unable to continue.
Jason Bright joined Radisich for the endurance races and Cameron McLean came on board to partner Steven Johnson for the FAI 1000. The Radisich/Bright duo crossed the line in second place in the famous Bathurst event, while the pairing of Johnson/McLean finished not far behind in fourth place.
2001 saw Johnson break through with his first ever V8 Supercar pole position, first ever V8 Supercar race win and first ever V8 Supercar round victory. He also finished the Championship in fifth place, the first Ford home.
Probably the team’s most forgetful year in recent history, 2002 saw a mixed bag of results for Steve Johnson and Paul Radisich. Struggling to find the correct set up all year, a number of on track incidents involving the duo proved expensive for the team in its pursuit of a V8 Supercar series championship.
While 2002 saw some disappointing qualifying times, to their credit, Steve and Paul were consistent come race day, regularly making their way through the field to post a credible finish position.
In 2002 Greg Ritter joined the team for endurance events and piloted a third car, #71 for a selection of other races. Greg’s performance highlight was at the gruelling Bob Jane T-Marts 1000, where he teamed with 1980 F1 World Champion Alan Jones to record a respectable seventh.
2003 saw new cars, new colours, a new driver and new commercial and technical resources herald the rebirth of Australia’s oldest professional motor racing team. Sporting all-new Shell Helix colours the team signed Brazilian international Max Wilson to drive its number 18 entry in 2003. Shell Helix Racing went into 2003 with more resources than ever before and a new commitment to success.
The early season hard work was starting to show in the latter half of the season with both drivers making the top-ten repeatedly. Johnson, partnered by Warren Luff, made the shootouts at both Sandown and Bathurst and showed everyone that he’d lost none of his competitiveness with two eighth placing’s, and an overall top-six result at Indy. At the same time Wilson took pride of place in the series final three shootouts and drove to a spectacular podium at Eastern Creek.
There were further changes to Shell Helix Racing by the start of the 2004 season. Wilson had returned to his original team, and Warren Luff, who had already proven his worth with two magnificent drives in the Konica and main series at Bathurst in 2003, was recruited to full-time driver alongside stalwart Steven Johnson.
It may have been a slow start to 2004 but the sleeping giant of V8 Supercars arose from its slumber by mid-season when Johnson and Luff made the podium at Sandown. Enjoying the success, Johnson and Luff took their strong form to Bathurst which they almost won.
The only team to four-stop, Johnson led Ambrose into the pits for his final stop but a wheel problem prevented him from staying in front. With second almost wrapped up, former team mate Paul Radisich parked his Ford at the top of the mountain forcing the safety car. Several cars took advantage of this, pitted and re-entered the race ahead of the number 17 Ford. Johnson and Luff eventually finished seventh.
With back-to-back top 10 placing’s, Johnson’s aim for the remainder of the season was to secure outright 10th in the Championship. With three more top 10 finishes he did just that and for the first time since 2001 Shell Helix Racing saw itself in the end of season top 10.
Dick Johnson’s team may have finished the season strongly on the track but behind closed doors DJR was dealing with a situation that it had not experienced for many years. It’s naming sponsor, and supporter of more than three decades, Shell, was exiting the sport. Senior management had their work cut out as they frantically searched for a new organisation to take over sponsorship.
In early 2005 DJR had secured Westpoint Finance as the major team sponsor. The team was called Westpoint Racing which saw DJR return to its traditional blue and white colours.
2005 again saw a change in driver line up with Warren Luff departing and racing legend Glenn Seton replacing him in the number 18 Ford.
The season ended strongly for the Dick Johnson Racing team, but the end of the year brought a close to the team’s association with Westpoint and Glenn Seton.
In 2006, DJR embarked on one of the boldest journeys in the team’s history. With the formation of Dick Johnson's own business ventures, FirstRock Mortgage Centre and V8 Telecom, the team was ‘self sponsored’ with regards to naming rights for the very first time.
The number 17 car, backed by FirstRock Mortgage Centre was piloted by Steve, while young gun Will Davison embarked on his first full season of V8 Supercar racing in the number 18 V8 Telecom vehicle. Mid season saw a livery change of Davisons’ number 18 car to a striking blue and white colour scheme with the increased support of holiday specialists, Accor Premiere Vacation Club.
Despite limited funding, the team made great gains during the 2006 season, with Steve consistently placing in the Top 10 cars, and Will showing plenty of speed throughout the latter half of the year to post some great results, many of them also well within the Top 10. Will also made his first appearance in the Top 10 shootout at Phillip Island, qualifying in 8th position.
The season ended well for Dick Johnson Racing, with Steve finishing in 9th position in the drivers’ standings, Will finishing 19th in a very promising rookie year and the team completed the year in 6th place, ahead of several other high profile teams.
2007 was a turning point for Dick Johnson Racing with Jim Beam coming on board as major sponsor of the team and the launch of a new DJR fan club – DJR Team Mates. The team transformed as Jim Beam Racing and along with the new naming rights sponsor came improved results and the 2007 Best Presented team award from V8 Supercars.
Steve Johnson and Will Davison were very consistent during the season, recording an emphatic 3rd place at Bathurst after a nail-biting finish where the pair came very close winning the prestigious race. Although Johnson and Davison didn’t win the race, the result was the pinnacle of a long road back for Dick Johnson Racing after its highly publicised financial battle.
The drivers also made their presence felt at the Bahrain international round, where Johnson qualified on the front row of the grid and backed this up with 3rd place for the round, his second podium place for the year. Davison was right on the tail of his team mate, finishing the round in 4th place.
Davison finished the 2007 championship in 10th; his first V8 Supercar Top 10 championship result in only his second full season in the category. Johnson was close on his tail in 12th and although his form during the year was good, mechanical issues were the cause of a few poor results during the season which denied Johnson a chance of a Top 10 championship finish.
It’s no secret that DJR will be a powerful force to be reckoned with this year, both on and off the track. With renewed team spirit, fit and focused drivers and the team’s future secured with the continued backing of a major global brand in Jim Beam, there are high expectations that DJR will return to its former glory as one of V8 Supercars’ front-running teams.
DJR is based on the Gold Coast. The factory also houses a museum of the teams history. In 2006 Johnson sold his museum racing vehicles to car collector David Bowden. By arrangement with Bowden, a selection of Bowden's significant racing cars will rotate through the museum in DJR's workshop.