Dick Johnson's Racing Career – The Face of Ford Racing

Long considered the face of Ford on the race track, Dick Johnson has had a long, illustrious career that is envied by many. The Queenslander began driving as child with his father. After completing school at Cavendish Road State High School, Dick Johnson’s racing career began with him speeding around the track in an FJ Holden. Eventually he worked up to a Holden EH. By 1969, his talent at the wheel had attracted him his first major sponsor, Shell; a relationship that continues to this day. Although he had been racing in the Australian Touring Car Championship since 1970, it wasn’t until 1981 when he finally took home a trophy from that competition.

Although he had quite a bit of success on the track, it wasn’t until he wrecked his car in the Bathurst 1000, that Dick Johnson’s racing career actually took off. The tale of this near tragedy is legendary; Johnson had an unfortunate run in with a rock at Mount Panorama where he spun out of control and destroyed his car. The raw emotion he showed during a television interview shortly after the accident inspired his Australian compatriots to donate AU$70,000 towards getting him and his car back on the race track. Seeing an opportunity to invest in such high calibre talent, Ford Motor Company donated a new shell as well as matched the donations already received to get Johnson up and running again. He attracted another major sponsor, Palmer Tube Mills in Brisbane, Australia who also donated money towards the cause.

After that incident, Dick Johnson’s racing career proved he was worth every penny his loyal fans and sponsors had invested in him. He won the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1981, 1982, 1984, 1988, and 1989. He also won the Bathurst in 1981, 1989, and 1994. It was at this time that Johnson switched over to using Ford products exclusively. When he won the ATCC in 1981 and 1982, he drove the Tru Blu XD Falcon. His 1984 win saw him coast across the finish line in the Greens Tuff XE Falcon. The Ford Sierra RS500 helped him grab the ATCC trophy in both 1988 and 1989. For his Bathurst wins he drove a Ford Sierra (1989) and an EB Falcon (1994).

Encouraged by Ross Palmer of Palmer Tube Mills, in 1989 and1990 Dick Johnson entered the NASCAR sphere by competing in seven races at the NASCAR Winston Cup. He walked away with an 11th at the Sears Point Raceway and finished 22nd at the Pocono Raceway. In 1995, he won the Eastern Creek 12 Hour tour. All in all, Dick Johnson’s racing career saw him grab a total of 22 wins and 202 starts. Even though he eventually retired in 1999, this racing icon still continues to be active on the raceway. Nowadays, he leads the Dick Johnson Racing team while Steven, his son, helms the race cars under his father’s famous Number 17. While he may have started his driving career in a Holden, Dick Johnson became and remains the face of Ford in Australia.