He’s a rock legend who has played Donington’s festivals three times in his career, and well known for his love of cars and racing, but Brian Johnson had never raced at Donington Park before last weekend’s Masters Festival historics race meeting.
The Geordie AC/DC frontman made his Donington race debut in a 1964 Austin Mini Cooper S in the Pre-66 Touring Cars race on Sunday, and loved every minute of it. “It was…fabulous!” he grinned as he climbed out of the car after the race. “It was a great race for me, the first time I’ve raced in two and a half years.”
Brian Johnson at the head of the Mini group in the early stages
Brian, who last played Donington with AC/DC in 1991, has always had a passion for racing and raced in the classic Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona in 2012 having already posted good times in the Star In A Reasonably Priced Car feature on BBC TV’s Top Gear show. However, this was his first venture onto Donington’s circuit.
“I’ve never raced at Donington,” he said. “I’ve sang here three times, but I’ve never raced here and it’s such a wonderful circuit. I mean, I really was a little bit afraid of it at first. I didn’t think it was possible to get round in the times that were pulled out in the race today, so I’m pretty pleased with that.”
Having qualified in tenth place, Brian led the group of four Minis, in the sixty minute race, before an off-track excursion compromised his race result. He was the last of the finishers, but still enjoyed the experience. “The car just ran great. I went off, did a little agricultural work…” he laughed, “but she bounced back on again.”
Brian Johnson enjoyed his first race at Donington
The most challenging part of the undulating Donington track is the down-hill Craner Curves section and Brian admitted he was worried about that. “I’ll tell yer, the first time I went down, one of the guys was saying ‘Ah, Brian, you’ve got to go down there flat out, lad.’ The first day I was goin’ down there seven-tenths and that was scary enough, but today I understand what he meant. If you don’t do it, it doesn’t feel right and when you do go down flat out it just… fits like a glove. It’s a testing circuit, and I’m an amateur, but it’s wonderful. This little Mini, it just whizzes around there, it’s nice and quiet in there, not too noisy!”