BRASELTON, Ga. – official team release — Michael Johnson Racing file photo —
Paralyzed American racer Michael Johnson announced Friday at Road Atlanta that he plans to switch to sports car racing for the upcoming 2016 season.
Johnson, the first and only paralyzed driver to be licensed by INDYCAR, will now compete in the International Motor Sports Ass’n’s (IMSA) Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge next year with 31-year-old English driver and driving coach Stephen Simpson as his co-driver.
“Racing within INDYCAR has been a dream come true and I still have aspirations to compete in the Indy 500 one day,” said Johnson. “I will deeply miss the wonderful people in open-wheel racing and will continue to follow from a distance. Driving in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge was too good of an opportunity to pass up as I look ahead for longevity in my career. This will be a great foundation for me, as a paralyzed driver, to be groomed for a professional career in sports car racing. I couldn’t be more excited for the challenges ahead.”
Johnson will drive in the Street Tuner (ST) class with a car prepared by JDC Miller Motorsport, the same team he spent the previous four seasons with competing within INDYCAR’s developmental ladder program.
His race car will be specialty-equipped with hand controls provided by GuidoSimplex. Due to Johnson’s paralysis, his car is a complicated brake and throttle system-he presses a ring on the front of the steering wheel to control the throttle and on the backside of the steering wheel, he pulls a separate ring towards him to apply the brakes.
“I’ve known both Michael Johnson and Stephen Simpson for a number of years and believe this team will be a great addition to the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge,” said Beaux Barfield, IMSA race director. “Michael has demonstrated tremendous ability in open-wheel cars, which I expect will translate very well to sports cars. Paired with Stephen’s natural talent, I think this team will be impressive. We’re proud to have them in IMSA.”
CREDIT: Michael Johnson Racing