An Interview With Sauber Red Bull Racing’s Brook Johnston

As many of us grow up wanting to be champions throughout life, we can only wonder what it may take to get there. Being raised as an avid race fan growing up, I found myself thinking what it must be like to be a championship race car driver. What kind of life style does this require? How emotional and physical is the sport to the human body? Most importantly, how do you become a champion? Thanks to a wonderful opportunity given to me by Team Sauber Red Bull Racing of the Formula BMW International series, I was able to interview young American racing prodigy Brook Johnston from Laguna Beach, California. Johnston has continued his career in the sport by battling through much success including two International Karting Federation Championships, a World Karting Association Championship, a strong second place season finish with Team Ferrari of North America in the GT class, and a current championship lead in the Formula BMW International series. Running on much more than just pure adrenaline, I interviewed the twenty year old racing driver on his continued success in auto racing.

Tom Dorris: So Brook, I would firstly like to ask you about your experience growing up in Southern California. Can you tell me a little bit about what growing up in Southern California was like for you and tell me a little bit about your motivation in sports as a kid?

Brook Johnston: Um well I would definitely have to say that growing up in Southern California was awesome. I was very lucky to grow up where I did and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I was pretty into the beach, sports and cars growing up and have continued to pretty much like all those things ever since.

Tom Dorris: Tell me a little bit about your involvement in those sports and why you picked and enjoyed the activities you participated in?

Brook Johnston: Well lets see… I was really into the normal beach stuff like skating and surfing. But I also started playing soccer and baseball when I was really little. I started racing karts when I was like 12 and got hooked on it ever since. I also ran cross country and track in high school, while I continued to race karts and branch out in racing.

Tom Dorris: What was your spark and enthusiasm like when you first started racing? Did you know right from the start that you would end up being a professional and engage more deeply into the sport?

Brook Johnston: Actually I wasn’t even sure at all. (he laughs). I just thought it was fun and addicting. I just loved to go fast and was always so competitive in everything that I wanted to win more than anybody else did. I didn’t really start taking it seriously until I got my first few sponsors and won my first IKF championship.

Tom Dorris: Brook, so tell me, how did you achieve your first two karting championships and what in your mind made you a winner when you started in the sport?

Brook Johnston: Well my first two karting championships were no breeze and there was so much tough competition at the time. I remember being in Stars of Tomorrow races in Las Vegas karting against guys like Marco Andretti and Alex Barron. But I think that my success and wins have to be attributed to my extremely strong headed and fearless personality. (he laughs). I would take corners faster than everybody else just because I wasn’t really afraid of anything. You can’t be afraid in this sport and you really have to want to win if you want to make it to the top.

Tom Dorris: So describe to me how exactly you made it to the top and the path you took to get here?

Brook Johnston: Basically lots of practice and coming to the tracks everyday. After karting I got involved in teaching a driving school for celebrities for a little while. Then I was asked to compete for a half season in a Barber Dodge Pro car and then went to the American Le Mans Style class with Ferrari of North America. It was a busy first couple of years starting out and when I was asked to be apart of the Formula BMW International program I was so stoked. I just have to say that it takes a lot of desire and hard work to reach the high goals that I have.

Tom Dorris: Not to go off on the beaten path here Brook, but I understand you are currently enrolled in College up in Northern California and manage your racing career at the same time? How does that play out for you?

Brook Johnston: Oh man… its pretty tough! (he sighs) Yeah I have been attending UC Santa Cruz and just been loving it. I’ve always wanted to get my college degree and have had so many other interests in life. I love racing and have been continuing on with my career, but I would like to think that I might be able to mellow down into another interest that involves me getting my degree. Right now that interest is in architecture, but who knows it could change. I just like to stay busy and keep my goals high.

Tom Dorris: So while you balance your high intensity career and schooling, do you find yourself having any free time or fun with any other interests? I take it you are currently residing in Santa Cruz then?

Brook Johnston: Yeah I am actually living in a small beach town called Capitola. I love it there its pretty cool. Um… well I don’t really have too much free time on my hands but I will say that I have some great friends who support me, an amazing girlfriend and my family. But when I do have some time I just like to hang out with everyone and relax at the beach.

Tom Dorris: I find that amazing that you can balance all aspects of your life to fit in perfectly. So would you say that these balances and goals since going to college in Santa Cruz have helped your current career in the Formula BMW International series?

Brook Johnston: Well I like to think they do. I think I just have a lot of pressure and stress taken off of me by living in Santa Cruz. It is a major pain though when I have to fly out for a weekend to attend a practice or race, and then come back to turn in a homework assignment or something. But I kind of put myself into that position and I plan on graduating next year.

Tom Dorris: Great! Well what can you say thus far about the Formula BMW International series and the team at Sauber Red Bull Racing? Tell me a little bit about your accomplishments so far this season with Sauber Red Bull Racing.

Brook Johnston: I have to say Im pretty darn stoked to be here and be in the position that Im in. Although this series is in it’s first year and hasn’t had much public attention quite yet, It’s been an awesome experience and just the whole program has been great. Traveling to world famous F1 tracks and racing on them has been so neat to do. When Mark and Red Bull first came to me and asked me to drive for their team I was so stoked. Sauber Red Bull has been so great to me this season and I really have to thank them for such a perfect opportunity. Im currently in first place in the championship thanks to a great team and sponsors, and have won two races so far. My goal is to bring home a championship for Sauber Red Bull and to help promote American open wheel racing internationally.

Tom Dorris: I have heard that you’ve endured much tension regarding your American background throughout the series. Is this true? Also there is speculation that you might be testing for a Formula One team next season. Is that a possibility for you?

Brook Johnston: Yes the series is very competitive regarding each driver’s home country. Our team is entirely American based and a lot of the fans and public seem to criticize the American F1 movement. Its not the greatest thing you want to hear as a driver, but we do have a very large fan base and much support compared to most teams in the series. It actually kind of fuels me to work harder and show everyone that an American can do it.

Tom Dorris: Are truly being considered for testing for next season by Formula One? And if so then by which team?

Brook Johnston: Let’s just say that I’m just trying to focus on my season here (Formula BMW International). I’m not too sure about my future quite yet but I have a lot of things to think about.