The son of Italian parents, Cecotto's garage owning father, a former Venezuelan champion, bought him a 750cc Honda-4 on which he contested his first works races. He was then offered the use of a 750cc ex-works Kawasaki and his form on this machine in turn led to an offer from the Venezuelan Yamaha importers who launched him on the way to World Championship glory. Johnny won the 350cc title in 1975 followed by the 750cc crown three years later. He switched to cars with a Formula 2 Minardi in 1981, moving to March the following year where he took a close second place behind Corrado Fabi in the European F2 Championship. He moved into Formula 1 with an uncompetitive Theodore in 1983, then joined Toleman alongside Ayrton Senna only to break his legs in a major accident during British Grand Prix qualifying. Since then Cecotto has made quite a name for himself driving BMW touring cars, winning the German Super Touring Championship as recently as 1998.