Johnston, rated by world governing body FIA as a Silver Class driver, guided the No. 38 Prototype Challenge car to the front of the Prototype Challenge (PC) field Jan. 24-25 at Daytona International Speedway. The Rolex 24 At Daytona was his first professional 24-hour endurance race after spending the last three seasons in Porsche GT sprint racing in North America and Europe.
Though he had never driven a PC car, Johnston turned faster lap times than former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Bruno Junqueira in the class. Johnston's best lap time was a 1 minute, 44.674 seconds on Lap 89.
Johnston had taken over for teammate James French, who drove the car to second place after starting from eighth on the grid. Johnston rejoined the field in the sixth position after a long pit stop. He quickly gained ground on his opposition, turning every lap with precision on the 3.56-mile circuit that includes part of Daytona's famous high-banked oval and an infield road circuit.
"Coming into this race, I never thought my first stint in the PC car would go as well as it went," Johnston said. "I had hoped to be decently fast and to be competitive with IndyCar drivers. To achieve that wasn't expected, but it was certainly encouraging.
"I think it speaks to the quality of car that Performance Tech prepares. Having the amount of practice time we did, I think I really started to feel comfortable in the car near the beginning of the stint. I'm loving the downforce cars and really enjoyed learning the PC."
That strong stint in the car came despite having just 30-minutes of track time before the race due to mechanical problems during practice Thursday, Jan. 22.
Having a short amount of time to learn the track and car - and all the nuances that come with each - is nothing new for Johnston. He has spent the last two years competing in both the Porsche Carrera Cup Germany and Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup, with Project 1 Motorsports where competitors on some weekends are allotted just one and half hours on track per race weekend. Johnston joined those prestigious one-make series after winning the 2012 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama in the United States and Canada.
"It was great to come back to the U.S. and show people here that I've been hard at work over in Europe," Johnston said. "With so little time on track in Supercup, I've learned to come up to speed quickly on tracks that are foreign to me.
"I'm so grateful for the experience and I know I've learned a lot and developed into a better racing driver. I also feel I've grown and matured as a person, as a whole over the past few years."
Johnston's talent and composure behind the wheel during the Rolex 24 immediately caught the eye of Performance Tech driver coach Jonatan Jorge and Team Principal Brent O'Neill.
"This kid is a real race car driver," Jorge said. "Super stint, great job!"
The team did not finish the 24-hour endurance event. While Johnston's teammate was behind the wheel a car clipped Performance Tech's ORECA FLM09 chassis and sent it spinning into the path of two other cars that also made contact with the No. 38. The damage was deemed irreparable, forcing the team to retire at the ninth hour.
"I have so much gratitude toward Performance Tech," Johnston said. "They created this opportunity for me, and that's something I appreciate greatly. The team worked so hard to give us a great car after a rough start to the week. I also would like to thank Driscoll's and Driscoll's of Europe for supporting my career to this point. Without their support I wouldn't be where I am today."