Button Excited for GTP Debut: ‘Endurance Racing Is Where It’s At’

The F1 World Champion Looks to Parlay His Motul Petit Le Mans Ride into a Fulltime Sports Car Gig in 2024 and Beyond

September 28, 2023

By Jeff Olson

IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Jenson Button did more than just accept his latest challenge. He welcomed it.  

Earlier this year – when they were in the midst of the NASCAR Garage 56 project that successfully showcased a NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro on a global stage at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – Mike Rockenfeller asked his teammate if he would be interested in joining JDC-Miller MotorSports for the 26th annual Motul Petit Le Mans. Button, 43, didn’t need time to ponder the invitation. He promptly said yes.  

“The question should be why would you not do this?” Button said. “I’m a racing driver. I could sit on the couch and do nothing, but why would I want to do that? I have to race.”  

The 2009 Formula One world champion will be accomplishing three firsts in his acclaimed, 26-year career: Racing a Porsche prototype, racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and racing at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.  

“IMSA is something I’ve watched for years,” Button said. “I love endurance racing. I love the teamwork that goes into it, and how drivers have to work together rather than being rivals within the team. The racing is just awesome.”  

So awesome, in fact, that Button is seeking to parlay next month’s run at Petit with JDC-Miller into a more permanent gig in the realm of endurance racing for 2024 and possibly 2025. Most likely that would involve a full-time ride in the FIA World Endurance Championship, he said, with a side hustle in IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races.  

“There are a few very good options,” Button said.

But for now, the immediate task is Petit Le Mans. He’ll join Rockenfeller and Tijmen van der Helm in the No. 5 JDC-Miller Porsche 963 for the team’s sixth race as the first customer team in the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class this season. The 10-hour race is the fourth endurance race of 2023 and season finale for both the WeatherTech Championship and Michelin Endurance Cup.

It’s both a step into and a step out of Button’s areas of expertise. He spent almost two decades racing and winning in high-downforce cars – and is returning to it for the first time in four years – but he doesn’t have much experience with multiclass racing or co-driving with teammates.

Challenges accepted.  

“Endurance is the place I want to be,” Button said. “Multiclass racing throws something else into the mix with traffic. There’s always a lot more action because of it. The way IMSA is run, you don’t know who is going to win until after the last safety car, basically. Endurance racing is where it’s at.”
So, too, is IMSA and its five classes and too-close-to-call championship battles. Button marvels at joining the GTP class, in which three manufacturers – Porsche, Acura and Cadillac – are within five points of one another for the championship heading into the final race.
While JDC-Miller didn’t get its customer Porsche up and running until May and therefore isn’t a part of the championship drama, Button says he won’t alter his approach to the race.
“It’s dangerous to not give it your all,” he said. “You’re not going to let people past. We are here to race and we’re here to compete. It’s a championship but it’s also a standalone race. You want to do the best you can. No quarters given, definitely not. As soon as you start taking it a bit easier on the guys fighting for a championship, it actually makes it worse.” 
Since departing F1 after 18 seasons in 2017, Button’s racing career has been diverse and adventurous. He’s raced in Super GT, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, WEC, Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM), British GT, Extreme E, Nitro Rallycross and, earlier this year, three NASCAR Cup Series races and the NASCAR-backed Garage 56 entry at Le Mans with Rockenfeller and Jimmie Johnson.  
A test of the JDC-Miller Porsche last week at Michelin Raceway marked the first time Button had driven a high-downforce car since 2019. 

“The first 10 laps were a bit of a shock to the system,” Button admitted. “Getting used to downforce cars again and a circuit that is fast, flowing, blind and unforgiving was interesting. But to be fair, I loved it. Absolutely loved the challenge. I feel at home driving high-downforce cars. It’s in my makeup. It’s what I’ve done for two decades.”
He joins a select group of stars from other racing series participating in Motul Petit Le Mans on Oct. 14. Reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Josef Newgarden will join the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport GTP entry with co-drivers Felipe Nasr and Matt Campbell. 
Newgarden’s IndyCar teammate, Scott McLaughlin, will return to Tower Motosports to try to add to their Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class victory in March at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Six-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves – who have been frequent competitors in IMSA endurance races the past several years – also are expected to be on the grid again at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
“It’s nice to see drivers from different categories jumping in and being competitive,” Button said. “It’s lovely that we’ve got drivers from all over the world wanting to try their hand at endurance racing.”
For Button, though, the question of why always becomes the question of why not. He talks of drivers in his age range who continue to race successfully at high levels. He mentions multi-time World Champion Fernando Alonso, still competitive in F1 at 42. Above all, Button says, the desire is about competition. 

“It never leaves you as a racing driver, that want for competition,” Button said. “As long as I still want to race and am still healthy and fit and my reactions are still there, there’s no reason to stop racing. When I get to a point where I’ve lost my edge, I won’t be doing so much serious racing. But for now, wow! I feel like I’ve got a lot of years ahead. I still feel like a 20-year-old when it comes to racing.
“I will race as long as I can.”
(Photo of Jenson Button courtesy of Drivinhard Media Group)

No. 17 JDC-Miller Audi Wins Wild TCR Battle with No. 33 Herta Hyundai

Late-Race Pass from Taylor in No. 17 Audi at Indy Creates Hotly Contested Championship Battle Heading to Season Finale

September 16, 2023

By Jeff Olson for IMSA.com

A wild pass in the dark during the final minutes left one team happy and another angry as the Touring Car (TCR) class championship intensified in Saturday’s penultimate round of the 2023 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Mikey Taylor passed Robert Wickens heading into Turn 7 with two minutes left, giving Taylor and polesitter Chris Miller their second consecutive victory and third of the season in their No. 17 Unitronic/JDC Miller MotorSports Audi RS3 LMS TCR.

“I knew if I had a big enough run, I’d be at least side-by-side,” Taylor said of his approach on the pass. “But he actually braked earlier than I expected, and I got a nice run around the outside. I don’t think he was necessarily expecting me to go there. It’s not a normal place to pass.”

The contact surrounding the pass didn’t go over well with Wickens, who, with co-driver Harry Gottsacker, managed to help maintain the TCR championship lead for the No. 33 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR.

“I don’t want to be the poor loser, but I’ve never raced the 17 yet this year where there hasn’t been contact,” Wickens said. “I can race everyone else without any contact. It’s just the way he is. If that’s how he wants to play, that’s how we’re going to play.”

Wickens and Gottsacker will unofficially take a 20-point lead over Taylor and Miller into the season-ending race next month at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

“We have to perform, every race, to catch back the deficit we had at the beginning of the season,” Taylor said. “We’re taking it to Atlanta now. I think the ball is in our court. If we win, it doesn’t matter what they do.”

On a restart with 11 minutes left, Taylor passed Wickens, who quickly regained the lead when Taylor tangled with the No. 79 NV Autosport Ford Mustang GT4 driven by Drew Neubauer in Turn 14.

Minutes later, Taylor pulled his Audi alongside Wickens’ Hyundai, and the final tussle for the victory commenced. When asked if there was contact in the dark, Taylor replied, “Oh, for sure.”

“It was just good racing,” he continued. “That’s how we’ve all raced all season. I have a lot of respect for them. … If I finished second at Indianapolis, I wouldn’t be happy either.”

The two shook hands during the post-race celebration, but Wickens expressed his frustration with the late move and the previous pass on the restart.

“He hit me to get by, and then he hit a GS (Neubauer),” Wickens said. “I get back in front of him, and then their car is so fast that they just catch back up. I’m blocking for my life, and eventually all he’s going to do is just hit me out of the way. That’s what he does.”

Taylor’s winning margin at the line was 1.138 seconds. The No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR co-driven by Mark Wilkins and Mason Filippi finished third.

The Fox Factory 120, the season finale for the Michelin Pilot Challenge, will be held Oct. 13 at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. Peacock will provide live streaming coverage in the U.S.

JDC-Miller MotorSports to display its Porsche 963 at Rennsport Reunion 7 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca

September 12, 2023

JDC-Miller MotorSports confirmed today that it will be displaying the team’s Porsche 963 GTP at Rennsport Reunion 7 on September 28 through October 1. The car will be in Garage 11 of the Legends display.

JDC-Miller MotorSports is very proud to be part of the Porsche family and to have been
asked to display the first customer Porsche 963 GTP car.

Rennsport Reunion 7 is on track to be the biggest Porsche gathering ever. More than
80,000 fans attended Rennsport Reunion 6 in 2018 and more are expected to attend
over four days between September 28th and October 1st.

The car returns WeatherTech Laguna Seca where is made its racing debut in May
kicking off its 2023 season with JDC-Miller MotorSports. The team had only received
the car a week prior. After coming home 7th in their first race, the team has scored three
top five finishes, with season high 4th place finishes at Watkins Glen and Canadian Tire
Motorsport Park and a strong 5th at Road America.

John Church, Managing Partner, JDC-Miller MotorSports
“JDC-Miller MotorSports is honored to be asked to participate in this incredible event.
This will be my first Rennsport and I am very much looking forward to being part of it.
When I was young my father had a 911 Targa so Porsche has been in my blood for a
very long time. Being a racing and Porsche fan all my life makes being emersed in all
this history just incredible. We have made so many Porsche friends over the past year
or so and this just takes that to another level. I look forward to meeting many more of
the Porsche family at Rennsport.

This is my first Porsche. I am now a member of the Porsche Club of America and our
local Region, Nord Stern. We have hosted open houses for Nord Stern since 2016 so
the relationship is not new. We also have a strong working relationship with our local
dealers, Porsche Minneapolis and Porsche St. Paul.”

Rockenfeller: “No Magic” Behind JDC-Miller’s Consistency

Mike Rockenfeller believes measured approach in first GTP season has boosted results…

August 31, 2023

By Tim Fullbrook for sportscar365.com

Mike Rockenfeller believes that the string of consistent results the No. 5 JDC-Miller Motorsports Porsche 963 has achieved is due to a straightforward approach to racing.

The customer Porsche squad joined the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTP class at the fourth round of the season at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, a race that would see them finish seventh despite Rockenfeller and co-driver Tijmen Van der Helm only having a simulator session at Multimatic to learn the 963.

However in the three rounds since, the No. 5 car has finished in the top five, and most notably finished ahead of both factory Porsche Penske Motorsport cars at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Rockenfeller was adamant that the run of performances is not solely the result of improved pace, but a “not rocket science” approach to setting up and running the car.

“The consistency is that yes, we have been lucky, we haven’t had a technical issue yet, but it comes also down to preparation of the team, focusing on the basics,” he told Sportscar365.

“Not drifting too far away too much because we cannot afford to drift away and do crazy stuff because we don’t have the testing and we don’t have the time and the money to go in that direction.

“We really have to focus on our basics that we can influence.

“There is no big magic to be honest. It’s sticking with more-or-less a baseline that we understand. getting familiar with the systems and how to influence the balance of the car by turning the knobs on the wheel.”

“It’s just learning by doing. I tell you if we had ten days of testing, I think we would be really good at just trying stuff.

“On a weekend the issue is that you have the pressure of the race weekend, timing, you cannot drift away too much, you do small steps. That comes back to our ‘lets keep it simple, we know this works, no rocket science.’”

Rockenfeller has competed in three top class regulation periods in the WeatherTech Championship (Prototype, DPi, and GTP) as a third driver, but persists during his first season in a full-time role that the focus has been on prioritizing finishing races over outright results.

“When you’re in the car, how do I take that restart?” he said. “Do I take all the risk? Is it necessary? It comes back to, we cannot afford to crash the car, we cannot afford to not finish by a driver mistake. It might happen, that’s normal.

“Here and there we are profiting from mistakes that others do and that’s part of the game when you are in our boat. You have to count on that a little bit and luckily for us some drivers are making those mistakes. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen for us.

“On track for us that is the crucial part, again focus on the basics, stay on track, make no mistakes. For me that is nothing special. That is part of the game.”

“For example, Road America, for me I felt we were competitive with the cars around us.

“In the race I was taking a bit more risk, but the people around me were taking even more risk which I really don’t understand, like, why do you move again under braking, for example, and early in the race where you want to finish?

“Then I was like now it’s enough, I let off the brake and fought my way through.”

Reunited With ‘Perfect Fit’ Button at Petit Le Mans

JDC-Miller recently confirmed that Jenson Button will complete the three-driver crew for Motul Petit Le Mans – the duo recently sharing duties at the highly popular NASCAR Garage 56 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 entry that raced at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Rockenfeller said he trusts in Button’s speed, hoping that the British driver will bring pace, reliability and draw attention to the Minnesota-based operation despite never having driven a GTP car or raced at Road Atlanta before.

“I think it’s a perfect fit for us,” said the 39-year-old German. “ I got to know him much better through the Garage 56, sharing a car for such a long time, not only at the race event but the development phase as well. He is super quick, super competitive.

“I realized it on the first [Garage 56] test already, how much he goes into detail, analyzes stuff, looks into data, how much he wants to be the fastest in a positive way, in the way it needs to be between drivers.

“For me a guy like him with his experience, and his pedigree it’s a dream to have him in the car for Petit.

“His name is mega for JDC-Miller in my opinion, as we are trying to find sponsorship for the future and so on.”

Rockenfeller added that he is looking forward to swapping notes with Button and hearing the 2009 F1 Champion’s perspective on the Porsche 963.

“The Porsche was developed by a group of people and drivers, the majority of it,” he said. “And lets say JDC-Miller or JOTA or Proton, as an example, the customers, you get the car, you drive it, and you realize things that the others already take as normal because they are used to it.

“After a while you just accept stuff and get on with it. I think it’s always important to have a new perspective and definitely the one of Jenson I am looking forward to.

“The way he feels the car, the way he describes stuff especially on tire testing, so for me it’s going to help the team to have him onboard a lot and it can only make us better as a team.”

Taylor, Miller drive No. 17 JDC-Miller Audi to victory in TCR

AUGUST 26, 2023

By John Oreovicz and Jeff Olson

Mikey Taylor and Chris Miller got the victory in the Touring Car (TCR) class Saturday at VIR, but Robert Wickens and Harry Gottsacker maintained their grip on the championship.

Taylor held on through a one-lap shootout to claim the class victory in the No. 17 Unitronic/JDC-Miller MotorSports Audi RS3 LMS TCR he co-drives with Miller. Wickens held on to second in the No. 33 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR he shares with Gottsacker.

While trying to chase down the leader late in the race, Tim Lewis went off course in the esses from second place, telling his crew over the radio that something broke on the No. 5 KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR. That resulted in a full-course caution with eight minutes remaining in the two-hour race, letting the field gather closer to Taylor.

The ensuing restart was a one-lap run to the finish over the 17-turn, 3.27-mile circuit. Taylor brought it home 6.974 seconds ahead of Wilkins, who finished 0.550 seconds ahead of BHA stablemate Mason Filippi in the No. 98 BHA Hyundai he co-drives with Mark Wilkins.

Before the late caution, Taylor was leading comfortably but was razor thin on fuel. When asked if he thought he could win had the yellow not come out, Taylor said he wasn’t quite sure.

“I think it would’ve been fine,” he said. “But at the same time, because of the yellow, these guys were pulled back up to us. It could’ve gone either way, really. We were just trying to maximize the package the car has. We don’t have enough fuel, really, to do a full stint. We kind of got lucky today.”

While Taylor and Miller closed on Wickens and Gottsacker in the championship standings, the No. 33 duo remains 50 points ahead with only two races – at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta – remaining on the 2023 schedule. Filippi, Wilkins and the No. 98 BHA Hyundai are 110 points from the leaders.

“We’re going to have to beat them in the next two races to beat them in the championship,” Miller said. “But we have a good car and the best team, so we’re looking forward to the rest of the season.”

The victory for the No. 17 did, however, push Audi into the TCR manufacturer points lead by just 10 over Hyundai, which is seeking its fourth straight crown.

The next Michelin Pilot Challenge race is four hours in length, on Saturday, Sept. 16 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The telecast of Saturday’s VIR race airs at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 3 on CNBC.

Jenson Button joins JDC-Miller MotorSports Porsche 963 GTP program for 2023 Motul Petit LeMans Oct. 11-14, joining Tijmen van der Helm and Mike Rockenfeller

Savage, Minnesota (August 17, 2023). JDC-Miller MotorSports confirmed today that 2009 Formula One World Champion Jenson Button will be joining Tijmen van der Helm and Mike Rockenfeller in the team’s Porsche 963 GTP for the season finale Motul Petit LeMans on Oct. 11-14.

Originally from England, the 43 year old now calls Los Angeles home. As a 19 year old, he started his Formula One career in 2000 with Williams F1.  Over the next 18 years he drove for F1 teams Benetton, Renault, BAR, Honda and McLaren ending his active Formula One career after the 2017 season. Jenson won the Formula One Championship with Brawn GP in 2009, and scored 15 wins, 50 podiums, 8 pole positions as well as 8 fastest laps during his Formula One career.

He currently competes part-time in the NASCAR Cup Series, driving the No. 15 Ford Mustang for Rick Ware Racing with support from Stewart-Haas Racing and sponsorship from Mobil 1.

At JDC-Miller MotorSports he will be reunited with Mike Rockenfeller, with whom he shared driving duties at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans alongside NASCAR Champion Jimmy Johnson. The trio drove a Hendrick Motorsports entered NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 as the Garage 56 entry and were a fan favorite.

JDC-Miller MotorSports started its 2023 season with the Porsche 963 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on May 12-14.  After coming home 7th in their first race, the team has scored three top five finishes, with season high 4th place finishes at Watkins Glen and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and a strong 5th at Road America.


Jenson Button, No. 5 JDC-Miller MotorSports Porsche 963

“I’m very excited to announce that I will be racing at Petit Le Mans this year with 2021 Sebring winners JDC-Miller MotorSports.

Whilst I’m having a lot of fun cutting my teeth in the NASCAR Cup series this year, a prototype with high downforce is definitely more in my comfort zone! That said, the Porsche 963, the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, and Road Atlanta are all brand new to me so I can’t wait to tackle all three with my teammates for the weekend. I partnered with Rocky at Le Mans this year and he will be invaluable as he’s fantastic at car/team development. He is also incredibly quick which always helps! I’ll also have the pleasure of working with rookie Tijmen van der Helm who seems to really be gaining speed and confidence through the season so we should have a lot of fun.”

John Church, Managing Partner, JDC-Miller MotorSports

“JDC-Miller MotorSports is honored to confirm that Jenson will be joining us for the final race of the season in our Porsche 963 at Road Atlanta. The team had hoped to have him join Rocky and Tijmen at Watkins Glen but unfortunately that did not work out as the very busy Jenson had some TV commitments. His accomplishments speak for themselves. He and Rocky bonded through the extensive development of the Garage 56 Camaro.  We are confident he will quickly integrate with the team and get up to speed with the 963.”

Volker Holzmeyer, President and CEO Porsche Motorsport North America

“Having Jenson join JDC-Miller MotorSports is a testimony to the program John Church, John Miller and the entire team has assembled. It also speaks to the high level of competition and interest in the IMSA GTP class. Rocky and Tijmen have proven how successful a privateer can be with the Porsche 963. The addition of Jenson should bring even greater success.”

About JDC-Miller MotorSports

Minnesota-based JDC-Miller MotorSports began making its mark on the IMSA record books with a PC class win at the 2016 Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona. The John Miller and John Church led operation quickly transitioned to the top ranks of sports car racing in 2017, scoring two second place finishes and fourth in the final class championship in only its rookie season. 

The team’s success and growth continued in 2018, when they introduced a two-car effort and scored a victory at Watkins Glen and a pole position at Road America. Once again, JDC-Miller MotorSports finished fourth in the series championship despite racing an even larger and more competitive IMSA WeatherTech Championship field.

For the 2019 season, JDC-Miller entered into a partnership with Cadillac to field a two car Cadillac DPi-V.R effort. The program had a number of podium finishes and added the prestigious 12 Hours of Sebring crown in 2021 to its growing list of accolades.

For the 2023 season, JDC-Miller MotorSports entered into an agreement with Porsche Motorsports making it the first customer team selected to campaign the German sports car manufacturer’s Porsche 963 customer program. The Porsche 963 will compete in the new GTP category, which competes as the top class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The GTP Class introduces technically sophisticated hybrid power to IMSA matching it for the first time to efficient and bespoke internal combustion engines while running sustainable fuel and tires.

For more information, please visit: www.jdcmotorsports.com.