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The hidden joy driving Johnson’s TCM resurgence

STEVEN Johnson starred on the track last weekend at Mount Panorama but it’s the challenge off the track that he is relishing.

At the Bathurst International, Johnson became the first driver to sweep all four races in a single round since TCM’s current format was introduced in 2018.

In doing so, he delivered Ford its long-awaited 200th win in the category, the marque having been stuck on 199 since Johnson won at Bathurst last December.

“It’s really cool to get Ford’s 200th win,” the 48-year-old told V8 Sleuth.

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“I got my 50th win too, which was really cool. And obviously to give Russell and Julie (Hancock, car owner) their first ever win in TCM after all these years of being involved was probably just as satisfying as all of those others.”

Having had to park his Tru-Blu XD Falcon due to a sponsorship shortfall – instead focusing on son Jett’s blossoming career – Johnson has spent the past two rounds in the Hancock-owned Ford Mustang.

He’s enjoying the challenge of extracting the best from his new beast, quite a different task to the XD and ‘Mustang Sally’ prior.

“Russell and Julie’s Mustang just needed a little bit more development,” Johnson explained, also revealing he has an option to continue driving the car next season.

“We’ve changed a bit of stuff, like add some stuff just within the suspension side of things. To be able to make some changes to that car and make it better, it’s been cool.

Johnson (middle) on the Bathurst podium. Pic: Australian Racing Group

“They have been working pretty hard behind the scenes changing a few things that I suggested and we’re chipping away, we’re moving in the right direction which is good.

“I guess most of the other competitors don’t want to me turn around and say the car has still got a lot more improvements to do and if I can get it to where I want it, it will be much faster again.

“For me, a lot of people are trying to ask me about comparing it to Mustang Sally – they’re two very different cars, not externally but the way that they’re built.

“It’s almost like comparing the XD to Mustang Sally. It’s very hard.

“The stuff that I did to Mustang Sally is not going to work on the Brut Mustang, so it’s actually quite enjoyable to be able to have to put my thinking cap on again and try to figure out what’s going to make this car work.

“At the moment, it’s definitely better than what it was but there’s definitely a lot more we can do, not just set-ups… it’s actually physically trying to redesign a couple of things and make a couple of things better to be able to get the most out of the car.”

One round remains on the 2022 TCM calendar: the Adelaide 500 on December 1-4.

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