One of the biggest stars running in this year's 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona is Brian Johnson, AC/DC's frontman since 1980. The Englishman has delved into vintage racing in the last few years, and makes his Daytona debut this weekend with Byron Defoor and former Daytona winners Elliott Forbes-Robinson, Jim Pace and Carlos de Quesada in the 50+ Predator/Alegra BMW Riley. The team is also running in partnership with the Austin Hatcher Foundation, allowing fans the opportunity to donate money to help children with pediatric cancer throughout the race. RACER web editor Tony DiZinno (below) caught up with Johnson on the morning of his debut.
R: Where does this rank in terms of all the things you've been able to do throughout your career?
BJ: Well, it's been one of the greatest experiences of me life. I've raced before, and I've had some wonderful times in vintage racing and HSR – it's one of my passions. But to step up to the plate for something like this, to be out testing, then racing with the world's fastest drivers, it was honestly a little intimidating.
But then all of a sudden, these guys who are giants on the track come up to you. They shake your hand and put your arm around you telling you, “You just have a huge race, stay safe, we know who you are, and we know where you are.” So it's been absolutely fabulous, I feel at home with them. I've still got to do the deed yet, and prove I'm not here as just a bit of a lightweight. Not as naturally gifted as these guys, but when I put me mind to something I really try hard.
R: The biggest thing about this, too, is running to raise awareness for the aptly named Highway to Help foundation?
BJ: That's my biggest thing. We're unique in this race in that we have no sponsorship. We're doing it for fun. We're having fun, and trying to do a little good, help people out. Racing is a perfect marriage for that. There's a lot of corporate sponsors, and people have to be good for them. We don't have to worry about that, and we sure don't need the money!
R: So, driving nearly 200mph on the banking, have to ask if this is the same thrill to going live right at the start of a show?
BJ: Oh, absolutely! It's so similar it's almost frightening, to getting on a stage just before a gig with the crowds roaring. The flag drops, the beer stops, and you have to do the business. Adrenaline is just flying around your body. Keep the car on the road not just for you, but for the whole team. Just like in a band. We just want it to rock and roar, clearly!