Not only is Sean Johnston the first American to ever race in the ADAC Opel Rallye Cup, he also arrives in Europe's most competitive one-make rally championship from a highly unusual track. The newcomer from California is no stranger to tackling challenges in his path.
The fact that a circuit racing driver dares to make the switch to rallying doesn’t happen too often. Beyond that, Sean Johnston's racing career is not in line with the usual cliché, which in most cases today prescribes racing in a kart as the first step. In an unusual path, the American earned his first stripes behind the wheel of a racing simulator, competing from his California home in video game based contests on the Sony Playstation 3. And successfully so: In 2011, he finished second in the North American GT Academy, a competition which put the best gamers in real racing cars. Although Sean did not win, the judges encouraged him to pursue his dream of racing - but this was at the age of 20, when others have been karting for 12 years.
The passionate racing fan put everything into this dream, interrupting his university studies to go on a search for sponsorship. And the hard work paid off: In his first season of racing in 2012, Sean Johnston won the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge and then moved to Germany. There, he not only raced in the national championship Porsche Carrera Cup Germany, but also in its international counterpart, the Porsche Mobil1 Supercup which took place on Formula 1 weekends. In 2015, he also competed in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup for GT3 racing cars and clinched overall victory at the 24 Hours of Barcelona together with his team-mates Bernd Schneider, Harald Proczyk and Reinhold Renger in a Mercedes SLS AMG GT3. In addition he drove with the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring, two of the most famous endurance races in the world.
After Sebring 2016, he interrupted his racing career and returned to the States. Now Sean Johnston is back - in the ADAC Opel Rallye Cup, the 27-year-old from Mount Shasta in northern California enters into completely uncharted territory. He has never driven a rally before, and working with a co-driver and the making the pace notes are completely foreign to him. Beyond that, he is facing the switch from rear-wheel drive GT3 cars with 500+ horsepower to the 140 hp, front-wheel drive Opel ADAM Cup. But it wouldn’t be like Sean if he wasn’t excited for the big upcoming challenge: "My goal is to learn to learn as much as possible about the world of rallying, and especially aiming to develop my skills in working with co-driver and the pace notes.” For his Cup debut on March 2nd at the ADAC Saarland-Pfalz Rally, Johnston secured the services of a highly decorated co-driver - the Swede Joakim "Jocke" Sjöberg, who navigated Emil Bergkvist to the European Junior title in 2015 at the wheel of the Opel Factory ADAM R2, to help show the circuit ace the way of rallying.
Regarding the ADAC Opel Rallye Cup, Sean Johnston is particularly excited by two aspects: "Being able to compete with identical equipment with drivers from ten other countries is awesome! And the opportunity to participate in the German WRC event during the ADAC Rallye Deutschland. This World Championship event run in such a beautiful area of the country, and over a great distance during the 4 day event will be a huge challenge for me. As a spectator at the German WRC event back in 2015, I saw World Rally Cars in action for the first time; That first-hand experience reignited my passion for rallying! I'm really looking forward to my rally debut next weekend!"
Source: FROM THE VIDEO CONSOLE TO THE RACE CAR (Original German Article featured on Opel Motorsport)