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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Introducing the IndyCar junior race winner nonetheless too younger to hitch GB3

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One of many hottest new abilities on this 12 months’s GB3 Championship received’t even be contesting the primary two race weekends, however he’s a race winner already this season on the IndyCar assist invoice.

That’s as a result of St Petersburg starlet Nikita Johnson is simply 15 years {old}. The age guidelines within the US are much less restrictive – he’s now in his third 12 months on the IndyCar open-wheel ladder, and he took his first victory in an F4 automobile on the tender age of 12, within the YACademy collection. “That appears a very long time in the past now…” he muses.

Johnson is the product of the junior programme of Velocity Racing Growth, the Georgia group primarily based on the state’s Atlanta Motorsport Park and arrange by expat East Midlander Dan Mitchell, who moved from Fortec Motorsport and the European scene to the States in 2017. He’s now bringing North American abilities in the other way throughout the Atlantic as a tie-up with the long-established Arden group. “I engineer Nikita and Noah [Ping],” says Mitchell. “It’s VRD-engineered and VRD-managed. We use Arden mechanics and logistics.”

“I met Dan in 2017,” recollects Johnson, whose first steps in vehicles got here on grime tracks in Legends. “After that I began with a distinct group and did one check [in open-wheelers] however since then my entire profession has been with him.”

“Nikita was our first academy driver when he was 11 – the primary product of what we’ve launched,” provides Mitchell, who now has Johnson’s 11-year-old brother Kai on his books. “I took the philosophy I learnt right here and carried out it within the US. I obtained strong-armed into it and it’s the most effective factor I ever did. I coach the drivers like after I was an F3 engineer. There’s no distinction in driver expertise [in the US] – it’s simply the best way they do it.

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“GB3 has at all times been a ardour of mine, and I’m proud it’s doing so properly as a result of I consider in ‘F3’ in Britain. GB3 is the most effective championship on the planet for worth for cash.”

Johnson rose to acclaim by successful an F4 race aged 12

Picture by: USF2000

As you may count on, Johnson – his mom named him Nikita after her favorite Tampa Bay Lightning ice hockey participant – obtained into racing at a younger age. “My dad did slightly bit of motorbike racing,” he says, “so there was at all times this ardour for motorsports. My mum thought it was loopy and I wouldn’t do it, however after I was 5 I obtained right into a kart and it simply took off.”

He joined the IndyCar open-wheel ladder aged simply 13 in 2022 in USF Juniors, and since then has received at three ranges, including success in USF2000 final season and now a house victory in St Pete this month in USF Professional 2000. The Tatuus utilized in that collection just isn’t dissimilar to the Italian constructor’s GB3 machine and, as soon as he’s 16 in late Could and sufficiently old to make his GB3 debut the next weekend at Spa, there aren’t any date clashes. As Johnson rises up the ladder, his focus is on Components 1 quite than transferring up the US equal to Indy NXT. “Sooner or later, relying on the way it goes, I wish to keep in Europe,” he states.

To that finish, Johnson has taken an necessary step in changing into a part of the steady at Infinity Sports activities Administration, which is run by ex-karters Harry Soden and Gary Catt, and guided George Russell and Logan Sargeant by the ranks. Considered one of Infinity’s first shoppers was Harry Tincknell, with whom Mitchell shared a home when the latter-day sportscar star was a British F3 rookie with Fortec in 2011.

“It’s full-send and we’ll attempt to win as a lot as attainable. I’ve simply obtained to show what I can do and what this group can do” Nikita Johnson

“After the success we had final 12 months, the cellphone was ringing an excessive amount of,” explains Mitchell. “I belief Harry [Soden] with my life. He’s somebody we belief, and he can get drivers to F1, with or with out funding.”

The personable Johnson, who after winter exams within the GB3 automobile at Monza, Crimson Bull Ring, Barcelona and Motorland Aragon has been vying in direction of the highest of the instances within the official exams, doesn’t become involved with the off-track stuff. “It’s been going fairly quick,” he says of his weapon. “We’ve been within the high three. They’ve given me an excellent race automobile, and I simply should go and drive it.

“It’s full-send and we’ll attempt to win as a lot as attainable,” he guarantees of what’s an inconceivable GB3 title quest given his absence from the early races. “I’ve simply obtained to show what I can do and what this group can do. Each time I win, all people on the group wins.”

CV

Age 15
2024 2nd in USF Professional 2000 with VRD (1 win); GB3 with VRD/Arden
2023 2nd in USF2000 with VRD (1 win); two rounds in USF Professional 2000 (2 wins)
2022 third in USF Juniors with VRD (3 wins); three rounds in USF2000
2020/21 wins in Legends and F4 YACademy

The American must wait until the third round in June to make his GB3 Championship debut due to his age

The American should wait till the third spherical in June to make his GB3 Championship debut because of his age

Picture by: BRDC British F3



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