Brian Johnson started competing in 1978 when he and wife Ann bought a 750 cc single cam Honda. They painted it, tuned it, fitted 40DCOE Weber Carbs, and chromed this and that. Then a friend, Jon Morton, said “Why don’t you try it at Blackbushe to see how fast it really is?”. Brian came third in Street Bike and was hooked.
From there Brian moved on to riding a Pro Stock bike. He ran a MTC Kawasaki in Pro Street in the late 1970s with wins at the Whitsun Big Go in 1979 and also at the 1980 August Bank Holiday Supernationals with a series of 9.2s, the quickest ET for a Pro Stock motorcycle in Europe at that stage. With that bike (the first Imperial Wizard) Brian made the first eight-second Pro Stock Bike pass in Europe – 8.98/150.3 – at Easter 1981. Brian went on to win three Championships in Pro Stock before moving on to Top Fuel.
With his first Top Fuel machine Brian set records and won races all over Europe. He then took that bike to the USA. Working with Motorcycles Unlimited he won his first US race. He then went to work with constructors Race Visions based in Buffalo NY and with their support he won the 1984 number one plate. After coming back to the UK he modified the bike by turning the head around and making things to suit the Yamaha 16v head. The chassis, by then, was in need of replacement, and Race Visions built a replacement in 1989/90.
The début of Brian’s new Imperial Wizard Yamaha in 1990 saw the tuning of the nitro burner being aided by Chris McGhee who helped Brian develop the fuel system on the bike with huge gains in performance over a short period. He ran his first seven at the 1990 Cannonball and later in July ran a 7.18 at Avon Park. A month later he took the Imperial Wizard Puma Yamaha to his best ever, and a new European best of 6.67/212. This was the best performance ever outside the USA, and only American Elmer Trett had ever run quicker or faster. In 1991 Brian took the world mark at a 6.61 backed up with a 6.67. In the 1990s, after constant modifications and tuning, the bike evolved into one of the world’s fastest Top Fuel bikes. Brian returned to Gainesville in 1999 and won Top Fuel Bike at the AMA/Prostar World Finals, running a 6.292/227 against America’s Tony Lang.
Brian retired from racing at the end of 2001 but is still an enthusiastic follower of the sport. With personal bests of 6.101 seconds and 234.11 mph he still stands as the eighth quickest and fastest Top Fuel Bike racer on the planet.
Sadly Brian passed away unexpectedly in April 2015.