By day he’s a high-powered investment manager at Lehman Brothers downtown in Chicago. On the weekends, Andy Johnson, Oak Park husband and father of three, lives the dream of many-he dons a racing helmet and powers his own Porsche 2002 GT3 Cup factory-built racing-class car in spec races through the Porsche Club of America.
The GT3 Cup goes 0-60 in 3.8 seconds or better and has a top speed of 178 mph. His vehicle is white with a decal on the side that reads “WNM Racing.” The initials stand for William, Naomi and Marshall, the couple’s three children-ages 9, 12 and 14 respectively.
“The youngest is the only one who has really shown signs of interest in racing,” says Johnson.
Johnson also owns a BMW and a Porsche Cayenne. As for his wife, Sheree: “She drives a Honda mini-van. She doesn’t care about cars,” he notes. “She’s the sane one.”
In addition to sanity, racing costs more than mere vehicle maintenance, he notes. “There are hidden costs,” he says.
A member of the Porsche Club for many years, Johnson says, “I like the club because there are members from all walks of life-people who own their own businesses, doctors-but we are all kindred spirits in that we all love Porsches.”
Johnson says he has always loved cars, even as a youngster growing up in Washington, D.C. His first car was a Chevy Nova SS. His first Porsche was a 1999 black 911.
“I learned about the Porsche Club from a friend and mentor at Goldman Sachs,” he recalls. Johnson took the additional step of learning to race competitively. He graduated from several racing schools-Jim Russell in Sonoma, Calif. and Bob Bondurant in Arizona, not to mention Driver’s Education, sponsored by The Porsche Club of America.
Johnson is quick to emphasize the importance of safety and how it is enforced. “You have to certify by driving a certain number of miles. There is the 13-13 rule: If you are at fault in causing car damage, there are immediate sanctions which can involve having to sit out a race-or you get put on 13 months probation or barred from racing.”
Of racing itself he says, “It’s an incredible work-out. The endorphins kick in at the end of the race, and it is a real rush.” Johnson plays basketball and exercises regularly at a gym to stay fit for driving.
During the race, he says he enters a “Zen-like state. It is the only place where I can truly block out everything and focus on one thing-racing.”
Johnson calls it “no holds barred, every man for himself. Some drivers-about 20 percent-hire the people who service their car to serve as their crew. But most, like Johnson, handle the car themselves.
Johnson has “about 20 hours” on his current engine, which is how drivers measure things, rather than miles. The engine, he says, was rebuilt in the summer of 2005 and will last for about 60 hours.
The GT3 came to America from Europe in 2003 and weighs 2530 pounds, boasts 390 hp at 7300 rpm and has 390 Nm of torque at 6300.
In other words, it’s fast. It’s powerful.
As of June, he had raced 12 times so far this year and twice in the previous month-once in South Haven, Mich. and another at Putnam Pike in Indiana.
“I finished eighth out of 24,” he says of his last race. “That’s pretty good, but I am competitive and want to do better.” After the race, certificates are awarded and standings are recorded on the Internet.
The Porsche Club races on road track in “Sprint,” which lasts 30 minutes or “End,” which lasts an hour or an hour and a half. Johnson races both but prefers Sprint.
But he cleared the idea of racing with his wife first.
“She said ‘sure,’ he joked. “She knew I had plenty of life insurance.”
His wife does have some leverage because of his racing indulgence.
“She’s collected a few times already,” he laughs.