Interview by: Clayton Harmer
Intro: Matt Johnston is a computer IT guy from Grand Rapids MI. He got bitten by the “Rally Bug” a few years back and rapidly came to the conclusion that money doesn’t grow on trees and rallying requires deep pockets. While he continues to aspire to greatness in the world of rally, he also realizes that in order to succeed, marketing and money are needed, so he turned his skills to videography and editing in hopes of helping subsidize his rally career. We had a chance to sit down with him and see where the inspiration of Wagon Attack 2 came from.
Matt Johnston, Grand Rapids, MI
Car make and model (small mod list):
1994 Acura Integra, GP2 Rally Car. Rally America spec safety gear, Hotbits rally suspension, custom steering and braking. GSR motor with close ratio M-Factory Gearbox.
Type of racing:
Rally. Rally. Rally.
It has to be asked, what made you get into rally and not the typical AutoX or drag?
While I enjoy hitting the track with my buddies and the competition of AutoX (my buddies just won the GRM 2009 Challenge, that was fun). If there isn’t jumps and true adventure, it isn’t for me. Rallying takes you all over the countryside and leaves you to your own devices to perform well and resolve any issues that may arise.
Funniest story involving your racing career:
Appropriate or not? One time some bad food in Maine almost left me with an on-stage “issue” but it all worked out ok. I’ve got an entire book of stories but most can’t be told outside a bar Not really a story per say, but my first tow vehicle, a 1987 Ford Econoline with one brake caliper was always a hoot. Coming home from Tall Pines 2004, the one brake line burst and I had to rub the van and trailer against the guardrail on a bridge to get it to stop. That was a blast.
How did you get started?
I at one time was semi interested in Road Racing a bit, but then internet videos got me hooked on rallying back in 1999/2000. I bought a Ex ITA Scirocco to turn into a rally car which didn’t work out because it was a HEAP. I sold that and bought a Civic to build. I built the Civic by myself mostly in the street at my apartment. I miss that car.
What is your best finish?
Tall Pines 2005. 1st in class. We had a few class wins that year but Tall Pines was the best. Really good competition with guys like Jon Nichols. Good adverse last minutes snowy conditions. I loved that rally. We spent 10 minutes in the ditch for a bit, but set a few top 10 stage times in our FWD NA Civic.
What are your future plans?
I just want to rally; the more the better. But realistically, there isn’t enough money to do more than a few events a year right now.
How about the video stuff, how did that come to be?
I originally started producing little videos about the team for YouTube as part of a marketing plan. Rally in the USA doesn’t have much TV coverage outside the X Games so I figured I would make my own. I think web videos are more relevant than the old TV model anyway right now. It’s a lot of fun, but difficult to film yourself while trying to compete too.
Why the move to short movies?
I started shooting rally promo type videos for other rally teams as well. It’s a lot easier to do when I don’t have to focus on driving and it has helped other guys out with their marketing and promotion. Plus, I get to go to more rallies, which is awsome. I’ve tried really hard to improve my cinematography and production skills to be able to create a really high quality product that doesn’t necessarily “look” like an internet video.
Wagon Attack was a big joke. The wagon (Luke’s my co-driver sometimes) is a serious piece of junk. It has giant rust holes, breaks all the time and is all over printed with skulls. It’s rediculous so we thought we would make something REALLY serious to showcase the wagon. It’s obviously supposed to be pretty humorous to people that are familiar with cars.
Any sponsors you want to plug?
M-Factory Competition Products, the transmission is the most important part of the drivetrain, and I love mine. Red Bull as well has provided a great product to help my crew and I stay awake for 22 hour days. NiceNines Clothing also.
Please don’t forget to mention your T-shirt business or any other ventures you want to mention:
NiceNines is a small clothing company I started. I used to deliver pizza’s as a second job to my real one (IT work) to make money for rally car parts. The pizze shop I worked at closed up and I still needed a second income. I figured I’m not retarded so it should be pretty easy to start a company and make some money to pay for rallies. Well, it isn’t that easy, but it is pretty fun and now I have a great relationship with one of my sponsors
The website and YouTube channel alwasy have the latest videos.
Wagon Attack 2
The Making of Wagon Attack 2