AC/DC's Johnson tests at DIS
Taken from The Daytona Beach News Journal. Read the full article HERE.
Brian Johnson has no problem standing on stage with a microphone in one hand before 100,000 people as the lead singer of rock band AC/DC.
After all, that is his job.
Put him a Grand-Am Rolex Series Prototype for a high-speed run over Daytona International Speedway's 3.56-mile road course and his 64-year-old heart starts thumping like the base drum in the hit song "Back In Black."
"I'm ready for a fantastic good time," Johnson said last Wednesday at the track. "At my age, if you don't grab it now mate, that's it.
"You got to grab life by the horns and just ride it right out there. I mean, I'm not stopping for anybody."
Grand-Am Road Racing wrapped up two days of Rolex and Continental Series testing Thursday, and Johnson enjoyed every minute of it.
Johnson, who joined AC/DC in 1980, was testing a BMW Riley Daytona Prototype. He will share the No. 50 car with four other drivers over the age 50, including Chattanooga businessman Byron DeFoot, 56, who pieced the deal together.
Johnson and the others will be racing for a cause. Their Fifty Plus Racing entry for the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 28-29 will raise money for the Austin Hatcher Foundation, which assists children with pediatric cancer.
The team has set the bar extremely high. Johnson and DeFoot hope to raise $1 million via an Internet radio broadcast before the endurance race is finished.
"We're all happy to have the opportunity to do this," Johnson said.
Johnson, born and raised in England, has called Sarasota home for the last 22 years. Since 1997, the rocker has dabbled in racing. He is a regular on the Historic Sportscar Racing circuit, which had an event here last weekend.
He describes his vintage 1965 Lola T70 as "a beast." The Daytona Prototype has a wealth of racing technology compared to long-retired sportscars.
"When you get in one of these DP cars, you've got to trust the engineering," Johnson said. "It's pretty hard to do that.
"Once that settles in, you have a ball. It's the most fun I've had going around a racetrack. You scare the bejesus out of yourself, but at the same time it's thrilling."
Johnson grew up in modest circumstances as the son of a coal miner in Dunston. At a young age he became fascinated with motor racing and the men of derring-do at the wheel, drivers such as Juan Manuel Fangio and Sir Stirling Moss.
He studied car magazines that showcased racing and its greatest events.
"Heroic men driving ridiculous speeds," Johnson said. "It just inspired me. It was just a wonderful dream for me when I went to bed as a child; to drive through the night, in the rain, pounding on, all that romantic silly stuff."
Becoming a HSR regular helped satisfy some of those childhood wants. Many of those historic competitors are not afraid to trade sheet metal for position.
"It isn't just a parade of sportscars," Johnson said of his HSR experience. "People are banging doors and taking numbers. This is the real thing."
The HSR vintage F1 class is one of Johnson's favorite to watch. He has a unique description of the start of those races.
"To hear that roar and listen to that sound when the flag drops, well, I always say if Zeus ever broke wind, that's what it would sound like," he said.
The HSR brought Johnson and DeFoot together. DeFoot also owns a vintage Lola sportscar. They have toured far and wide together for the last decade.
"The same people, who took care of his car, took care of my car," DeFoot said. "We started traveling all over the country doing historic races at all the famous tracks and having a great time."
Former Rolex winners Elliott Forbes-Robinson, Jim Pace (overall) and Carlos DeQuesada (GT class) will do the heavy lifting in the Rolex 24. DeFoot and Johnson will each get about 4 hours of seat time.
Their mission? Keep the car alive.
"When the flag drops ... you've got to get out and do it. You can talk a great race.
"You can put a race suit on and say, 'Look at me. I'm going to do it.' I love doing this. I love Daytona. I love this track. It's the heart and soul of racing as far as I'm concerned."