Introducing Aaron Johnston – Oliver’s new co-driver
It’s all change for Oliver in 2019 with not just a new car, but also a new co-driver. After two years working alongside Veronica Engan, 23 year-old Aaron Johnston will step into the hotseat this year. Aaron comes highly recommended after working with legendary co-driver Chris Patterson for many years, and also sitting alongside Oliver’s father, Petter, during his tests before Rally de España last October.
“It’s been two fantastic years for me with Veronica, and I want to thank her for all her hard work, support and all the good times we’ve had together. Since the start of our partnership back in early 2017 we have had lots of great results, and she has helped my development in the early stages of my career. It’s not been an easy decision for me – Veronica is a great co-driver and I’m sure she has a lot of success still to come in her career.”
“But I did feel like I wanted to try something new, and Aaron was my first choice. We've had a couple of tests already and the feeling is good, we get on really well, and with recommendations from Chris Patterson and my father I'm confident we'll work well together. Plus with my pacenote system being in English it has a lot of potential there too. Now we're looking forward to getting out on our first stages together!”
Aaron, who grew up in a rally-loving family in Northern Ireland, has already got a huge amount and range of experience despite his young age. Starting in amateur rallying alongside his father when he was only 15 years old, he quickly started to climb the ladder and has achieved podium finishes in the Irish Tarmac and Irish Forestry Championships, as well as gaining international experience in Estonia and France. Aaron has also co-driven in an amazing range of vehicles, from historic Minis to Group A and even WRC machinery.
However for Aaron, joining Oliver for the challenge ahead is the most exciting opportunity so far:
“I’m thrilled to join Oliver and the team, and can’t wait to get started. It’s clear that Oliver is a great talent and for him to choose me for this role is an honour and very exciting for me. Plus we already get on really well personally too which is crucial to the partnership.”
“With a new team inside the car, and a new car too, this could be seen as a learning year for both of us. But the tests have gone really well and it would be great to show our full potential and fight near the front at the end of the year. I have experience on many of the rallies in the championship already from previous years working with other drivers, and so in that perspective we have a good foundation to build on too.”
There has been lots of discussion around Oliver’s pacenotes in the past as he uses English pacenotes in a system very similar to the one his father and Phil Mills used over a decade ago.
“Oliver’s pacenotes are very detailed and very enjoyable to read, especially for someone at his age and with relatively little experience. There is a real flow to them, and while it would normally be harder to read more detailed pacenotes in this instance it actually works much better and is easier for me. Plus Oliver has commented that my Northern Irish accent also helps add a flow to the notes as he’s driving so that’s a nice bonus!”
Oliver and Aaron’s first rally together is this week at Rally Aluksne on 18/19 January. You can follow all the results via Oliver’s social media pages.