Class front-runners Michael O’Brien and Graham Johnson will join forces aboard a Balfe Motorsport-run McLaren 570S GT4 next season. O’Brien fell just two points shy of the Drivers’ title during a debut campaign in which he and Charlie Fagg finished third in the standings with Tolman Motorsport.
The 24-year-old remains at the wheel of a 570S GT4 for his sophomore British GT season, albeit in the Pro-Am ranks with Balfe Motorsport. Indeed, the decision to switch from Silver Cup to Pro/Am was made by McLaren which believes O’Brien, a member of its Driver Development Programme throughout 2018, will now benefit from racing alongside one of its customers.
“I’m absolutely delighted to be teaming up with Graham in 2019 and continuing my career with McLaren,” he said. “It’s a really exciting Pro/Am pairing and I’m confident we’ll work very well together to secure the results we need to be fighting for the championship at the end of the season. Graham had some good results this year so we’re definitely looking to build on that for 2019.
“Working with Balfe Motorsport and new engineer Geoff Kingston is really exciting; Balfe run a fantastic team so I’m really looking forward to getting started with them.”
2016 GT4 champion and two-time Pro-Am title winner Johnson was seen as the ideal candidate to complete the pairing thanks, in part, to his experience of Balfe’s PMW Expo-supported McLaren. Johnson and former co-driver Mike Robinson won races in each of their four seasons together, most recently at Brands Hatch in August during a campaign that featured a total of four British GT wins for the 570S.
“I’m very much looking forward to partnering with one of McLaren’s up-and-coming stars,” he said. “I know I’ll benefit from Michael’s natural turn of speed, but I also hope to contribute by passing on my knowledge from my previous four British GT seasons. Indeed, I’ve won at least one race every year I’ve competed, so I’m looking forward to more success and helping Michael take what will no doubt be the first of many British GT wins!
“I had my worst season to-date in 2018 in terms of my own performance, but I’ve always benchmarked myself against anyone regardless of driver grading and that won’t ever change. I know I still have the pace to challenge for pole positions – you don’t suddenly forget how to drive! Outside influences affected me in 2018. As I’ve always said, racing is 10% hands and feet, 90% brain. I’ve already put structure in place to take care of the 90% and thus enable me to focus more on my racing in 2019.”
Johnson’s titles already mark him out as one of the most successful British GT4 drivers in history. And winning another would also represent a new record.
“The goal is to win the title outright. No-one has ever won the GT4 title twice, and to do so with a different team, different car, and with a different team-mate to my previous triumph would be another box ticked. Besides, Michael came so close to winning the title this year that we need to help him achieve that ambition in 2019!”