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Johnson: 2023 ‘a year that nearly broke me’

STEVEN Johnson has confirmed he will be back to defend his Touring Car Masters title, while supporting son Jett’s Super2 step up from slightly more of a distance.

Johnson last year clinched his fourth TCM crown. He’s returning in Russell and Julie Hancock’s Ford Mustang Trans Am, with his mission for a fifth title starting at this weekend’s Thrifty Bathurst 500.

“I really enjoyed it with the Hancock family last year and the Mustang and the team that we had there, but it was a tough year,” he told V8 Sleuth.

“I struggled with a lot of stuff, especially my health towards the end of the year, especially at Bathurst and I still wasn’t 100 percent at Adelaide, but hopefully it’s stuff that I can get on top of and I can really focus on having an enjoyable year behind the wheel.

“There’s a few more people that are coming in and are looking like they are going to be doing the full season in the TCM championship and it’s going to make for a very tough year.

“As long as I can go out there and have a bit of fun and we’ll see how it goes.

“I’ll just take it year by year and see what’s happening with Jett, see what’s happening with myself and work outside of motorsport, and make a decision on what I do driving-wise towards the end of each year for the following year.”

Steven Johnson in action at the 2023 Newcastle TCM round. Pic: Supplied/Daniel Kalisz

Helping take weight off his shoulders will be Jett’s move to AIM Motorsport, for whom he’ll drive a #117 Gen2 Mustang.

The 18-year-old finished Super3 runner-up last season in a largely family-run Nissan Altima.

“I think it’s the best fit for him to learn and see what he has got, and also to take a bit of pressure off me,” said Steven.

“Because last year was tough for me not only trying to do what I needed to do to help Jett complete a Super3 season, but also in amongst all of the work and things I had to do last year for myself plus race, it was a year that nearly broke me.

“I need to take some pressure off myself that way so I can concentrate on what I’m doing with work, as well as moving forward to watch him this year and hopefully see him progress through the year and not sort of stay status quo.

“He improved last year to mid-year and then we stayed status quo.

“I think me trying to do too much and not able to do things that I wanted to do throughout the year was probably a big part of Jett not continuing to improve through the rest of 2023.”

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AIM, which will also field Zane Morse and James Masterton in Super2, boasts Adam DeBorre as team principal while Erik Pender will engineer the #117.

“The Morse family were just great to be around, even last year, through his first year of Super3, they were always keen and interested in how he was going and were just pleasant and easy-going to be around,” said Johnson.

“Putting him in a place where he can work with some of the best in regard to engineering-wise, with Adam DeBorre now heading up the ship and Erik Pender as well, I mean you can’t go wrong with those two blokes.

“They’ve been around a long time and they have done everything.

“Zane I think is going to be a really great fit as a teammate, as a young-ish guy himself as well, he knows what it takes.”

All three generations of Johnson are set to be at Mount Panorama this weekend, with Steven’s father Dick’s eponymous squad also there to kickstart its 2024 Repco Supercars Championship campaign.

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