An aluminium fabricator by trade, Damian has crafted everything on the VR-4 and has turned every nut or bolt. It was his first ever roll cage and turbo manifold, but the package is proving to be extremely competitive. It just shows what you can build at h
PAINT: Toyota silver ENHANCEMENTS: Lexan MR10 windows, Evo V front bumper, bolt-on flares
Capable of 1:15s around Manfeild, this VR-4 may not be overly powerful, but it is no slouch. A large rear GT wing helps stability at speed, and a removable splitter that smoothes the undercarriage beneath the engine is used come circuit time
Ralliart viscous coupling, and a mechanical rear diff. With the VR-4 gearbox, I found myself constantly on the limiter in second at hill climbs, and if you changed to third gear it was too lazy. With the Evo III unit, it’s much easier to keep it on song.” Toyo R888 semi slicks measuring 235/45R17 were chosen for the optimum balance between mechanical traction and mechanical failure. During previous attempts with a full slick tyre, several gearboxes and countless differentials were destroyed.
A capable all-rounder, Damian’s VR-4 has conquered plenty of hill climbs over the years, but also circuit events such as the North Island Jamboree at which he often hands it to the big boys — one year even winning Superlap outright. Although Damian is a privateer, he doesn’t come unprepared whenever he mixes up his motor-sport disciplines. For circuit use, suspension components are dialled in, the ride height is lowered and the front diffuser is installed, which goes right the way under the engine. For hill-climb duties, the VR-4 is raised up and given some more travel, sway bar size is decreased to allow more chassis movement, and the diffuser is removed just in case Damian drops a wheel and scrapes the undercarriage.
As diverse as Damian’s circuit and hill-climb tactics are, there is one constant which has seen him excel over others — his attitude, as he explained: “When I got to a race meeting, I don’t look at the times until the end of the weekend. Most people get too caught up chasing that extra second, but I do the opposite — I drive to my conditions and to what I can do. To this day, I still just go out there and do my own thing, and see how well I did at the end of the day. Consistency gets me through.”
DRIVER/OWNER: Damian Johnson
AGE: 32 OCCUPATION: Welder and fabricator/boat builder LOCATION: Wanganui BUILD TIME: Five years LENGTH OF OWNERSHIP: 10 years THANKS: Thanks to my wife for all the nights I spent in the shed, Keith Stewart dyno for such a driveable tune, my brother Nathan and good mate Bevan for helping keep the car in top form at events, Gregg Adams for helping build a motor that has performed day in, day out, Swartz Tyres Wanganui for hooking me up with the wheel
alignments and tyres