HomeColumnsOne Man’s Life – Brian Johnson

One Man’s Life – Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson - Top Fuel

It is a natural fact that all that lives is born to die. Such is the way of life for those of us most human. We are born with a starting date, we all call this our birthing day or birth date if you prefer, our official start into this adventure we call life.

But upon the issuance of our birth certificate, you’ll notice the other side of this document is blank. For we know not our death date.

What sets us all apart in this world is what we choose do with our time while on this Earth from start to finish. We have but one life, one chance to make our mark in the world, to be who we will be. What each person chooses to do with their life defines them; THIS is the true measure of who they chose to be.

In one man’s life, that of Brian Johnson, of the United Kingdom, Brian chose to live much of his life as a motorcycle drag racer. Not just any motorcycle drag racer mind you, but a Top Fuel motorcycle drag racer.

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Damon Hill’s Wild Drag Bikes :  featuring Brian Johnson

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A review of motorcycle drag racing’s written pages reflects that from 1976 through 2001, for a total of twenty-five years, Brian competed as a driver in his chosen sport. He started off on his street bike in 1976 as many motorcycle drag racers do, and he advanced through the ranks of the high-speed classes.

From 1982 to 2001, a span of some nineteen years, Brian devoted much of his life to racing in the class of Top Fuel motorcycle; a class of racing that is the pinnacle of the sport. Let this man’s life record reflect that he devoted a good portion of his life to racing the world’s fastest drag bikes. He did in fact spend the better part of two decades of his life devoted to Top Fuel motorcycle drag racing.

For the uninformed, there is no “just participating” in Top Fuel motorcycle drag racing. It’s not a sport where you show up and have at it. Top Fuel motorcycle drag racing is an obsession. It’s done with great passion or not at all. A T/F motorcycle drag racer gives their soul to what they do: it becomes their way of life. Their entire existence becomes structured around whatever it takes to go Top Fuel motorcycle drag racing. Brian did this with great passion.

For nearly twenty years of his life, Brian traveled parts of Europe as well as the USA, defeating the best of the best on their own race tracks. During Brian’s racing years he defeated the biggest and the best in Top Fuel bike racing: Larry McBride, Chris Hand, Sam Wills, Tony Lang and even Elmer Trett were all at one time or another sent packing by Brian Johnson of the U.K.


In 1984 Brain was the first and only over-seas international fuel bike racer ever to come to the USA and win a championship sanction title number 1 plate. He accomplished this with the IDBA, the International Drag Bike Association; Brian won four of their scheduled six meets that year, thereby earning the IDBA #1 plate in Top Fuel.

It must be noted here that Brian’s great success was made possible in large part by his even greater success in life at home by the virtue of his marriage to his lovely wife Ann. Her devotion to him, and his to her, spanned an age twice that of his racing years. Wherever Brian raced, Ann was there, not complaining mind you, but helping all she could, as Brian needed. She was his rock throughout his lifetime.

Gina Trett-Lang recalled one summer, Brian and Ann lived with the Trett family for a period sleeping on mattresses on the floor while day after day, Brian and Elmer Trett worked on their Top Fuel bikes. Sharon Hand remembers at another point in Brian’s racing career they stayed with Chris and Sharon Hand, working out of their shop in following their high-speed pursuits. Life was no bowl of cherries for Ann as she stood by her man throughout their lives. More often than not there was a smile on that face of Ann’s, she quite enjoyed the adventures of the Johnson family racing efforts.

There were great moments of success for the Johnson family both on the track and off the track in their Top Fuel racing forays. This was due not only to Brian’s skills and tenacity as a Top Fuel racer, but his famous British sense of humor.

For example, to this very day, Chris Hand still chuckles whenever you mention the Elvis impersonator to him. One time Brian dressed up as an Elvis clone and unbeknown to Elmer, Brian was masquerading as Elmer’s biggest fan. This fan tried to interview Elmer, on tape mind you, and get Elmer’s vital engine tune up information, then asked if when he was born in “43,” was that 1943 or 1843? Fortunately for Brian, he could out run Elmer on foot. People in the know still chuckle about this one.

On another occasion, Brain was standing in the pit area talking to a journalist and he stated, “Watch this.” He ran quietly across a pit access road to the Trett pit area and while Elmer was bent over working on his bike, Brian bent over and planted a kiss on Elmer’s backside. Brain smiled at Elmer and beat feet back over to the reporter. He then announced with a big grin, “See, a lot of T/F bike racers kiss his ass in private, I’m not afraid to do it in public.” Brian was quite proud of his little impromptu prank when he did that.

Brian’s exploits in Top Fuel bike racing both and off the track have earned him his place amongst the Gods of Thunder. In the earliest years of the new Millennium, Brian clocked as quick as 6.10 and as fast as 234 mph. For 2001 times, it’ stunning to see over a decade later his times were winning ones even by today’s standards in 2015.

As Larry McBride commented in remembering Brian Johnson, “I’ve always admired his passion for our sport. He truly LOVED Top Fuel motorcycle drag racing; he did it with great passion.” Indeed this is how people should remember England’s own – Mr. Brian Johnson. This man’s life was well lived and the Top Fuel bike racing community, world wide, became a bigger better place for Brian Johnson racing having been a part of it.

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