PMW Expo Racing/Optimum switch to McLaren 570S GT4
A mid-season manufacturer switch will see reigning British GT4 champions Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson race a McLaren 570S for the remainder of 2017, starting at Silverstone this weekend.
The PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport crew have achieved great success with their current Ginetta G55, first by finishing as class runners-up in 2015 before going one better and lifting the GT4 crown 12 months later. They currently lie fourth in the standings, 22 points behind leaders Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton, but enjoy a healthy advantage atop the Pro/Am table.
Johnson confirmed other options had been discussed pre-season but that the decision was only made following a recent test at Silverstone.
“The move to McLaren is about Mike and I taking on a new challenge having won the title last year,” he said. “We looked at various options for 2017 in the off-season, but nothing worthwhile came together. Then we got the chance to test the McLaren and we were immediately won over by it.
“We couldn't believe what a different experience the McLaren gives to the Ginetta. It’s a very ‘easy’ car to drive quickly, whereas the Ginetta is more an out-and-out racer: hot, noisy, and on a knife-edge. A Ginetta would be intimidating to the uninitiated, but the McLaren is softer. I can see why ‘gent’ drivers like it so much.
“Both the Ginetta and the McLaren have their merits and we’ll unquestionably miss our Ginetta at some circuits, but it’s time for us to see what we can do in another car.”
Nevertheless, after spending two-and-a-half years racing the G55 and with no worthwhile testing in the 570S to speak of, Johnson is realistic about his and Robinson’s chances this weekend.
“The team only collected the car from the factory today [5 June], and Mike and I have completed just eight laps each in McLaren’s development car,” he admitted. “Collectively, we’ve a tremendous amount to learn in a very short period of time, but I trust Optimum will ensure the car is reliable, while Mike and I know we can mix it at the front in whatever car we drive.
“A podium finish would be nice, but I think the first goal has to be to complete every lap of the three-hour race. That’s a feat we’ve never managed in previous years!”
The pair remain winless so far in 2017 thanks, in part, to a number of particularly strong young Silver Cup crews. And while the championship’s current top two pairings also campaign Ginettas, Johnson believes the McLaren offers he and Robinson a better chance of returning to winning ways.
“Anyone who thinks we're stepping back under-estimates Mike’s and my determination and competitive spirit,” he said. “We’ve never been on the grid simply to make up the numbers, but rather we want to win. Indeed, this move is not only about a new challenge, but also about giving us what we feel is the best chance to keep fighting.”
PMW Expo Racing’s switch takes the number of full-season McLaren 570Ss to seven, one more than Ginetta’s GT4 total.
British GT’s blue riband, three-hour Silverstone 500 race begins at 13:35 this Sunday. Tickets, which start at just £12, are available here, while live coverage is also available on Front Runner TV and the championship’s Facebook page.