May 15, 2023
Drivers of the first true customer car in IMSA’s new GTP class, JDC-Miller Motorsports’ Porsche 963, say they achieved their aims on debut at Laguna Seca on Sunday.
By Charles Bradley and Mandy Curi
Veteran sportscar star Mike Rockenfeller and his teenaged team-mate Tijmen van der Helm steered the 963 to seventh in the IMSA SportsCar Championship’s fourth round, having been forced to miss the opening three races due to supply chain issues that delayed the build of Porsche’s customer chassis.
Rockenfeller finished the race directly behind the Daytona 24 Hours-winning Meyer Shank Racing Acura and the first of the BMW Hybrid V8s in the 102-lap race. The team only received its car shortly before the Laguna race weekend, following a shakedown at Porsche Motorsport’s Weissach test track by factory driver Matt Campbell.
“For the very first time in a car like this, I think we did pretty good,” Rockenfeller told Motorsport.com. “The car was tricky to drive, everybody was struggling with grip, but we showed up with zero experience!
“We know we are missing ultimate pace and, for me, that’s a balance issue and understanding the braking – I didn’t feel in control 100 percent. P7 is never what you want, you want to fight for the podium, but let’s be honest, we finished the race with no scratches on the car and we get into a lot of fights out there with our opponents.
“It seemed that we struggled on the new tire at the start of the stint, and towards the end I could manage the car better, even though it wasn’t easy with the brake bias. There are like 500 adjustments in these cars and you need a half-decent routine!
“But, all in all, I think we did a half-decent race, and we can be proud as JDC. We’re only a small team, so it’s not like we go testing, we have to learn this car race by race.”
#5: JDC Miller MotorSports, Porsche 963, GTP: Tijmen van der Helm, Mike Rockenfeller, #60: Meyer Shank Racing W/Curb-Agajanian, Acura ARX-06, GTP: Colin Braun, Tom Blomqvist
Photo by: Richard Dole / Motorsport Images
His co-driver van der Helm, who was making his first start at the top level of sportscar racing after piloting LMP2 machinery in the European Le Mans Series, both qualified and started the car before handing over to Rockenfeller.
“It went better than expected,” said van der Helm. “So much to learn, so much still to learn. But I think Mike and I did a pretty good job along with the team, and I think we should be happy about the job we did this weekend and I think we can look forward to all the other races.
“This was a learning experience, a kind of practice race, and I think it went well enough to look forward to Watkins Glen now. Our goal here was simply to finish, and just see where we finished, so I think we should be happy with P7.
“Now we can spend some time behind the laptop, and work on getting our pace towards the other cars.”
May 13, 2023
By Richard S. James from RACER.com
JDC-Miller Motorsports are thrilled to have their shiny, new and very yellow Porsche 963 make its debut in this weekend’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Motul Course de Monterey. Becoming the first customer team in a field of factory efforts is an honor. But at the same time, they arrived at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca with no testing, and no experience with the car other than the crew putting it together with the Porsche engineers in Weissach. Just finishing the race will be an achievement.
“For me, (being the first customer team is) a big accomplishment,” said team principal John Church. “It’s nice to get back to the top class here. Sure, this weekend, we’ll be running around at the back, but use it as a test session, learn how everything works, learn how the tires work, learn how we work with the drivers, the communication…everything is an unknown at this point. I keep saying you’ve got to start somewhere, and we’re starting here at Laguna.”
The team found its first issues early, making only a handful of laps in the first practice session on Friday. Tijmen van der Helm only had his first laps in the car on Saturday morning, but pace kept improving, and in qualifying van der Helm put in a time that — although two seconds off the GTP pace — was in the ballpark of where the other teams had started Friday afternoon in Practice 1. Not bad for being “thrown under the bus,” as the other half of the driving team, Mike Rockenfeller, put it.
“With the experience I have, I have seen a lot of things in my life and racing, for sure. But still, at the end, every project is unique. And it’s definitely not an easy one without any testing. You know, I think if we had two, three days, you feel kind of prepared. Now it’s a bit…we’re a bit thrown under the bus, all of us, but I think we are in the same boat. I try to stay calm and just do it step by step, don’t expect too much. But then we all know once the race comes, the flag drops, you want to do as good as you can. But I see it as a test here for everybody, and then get our hands around this thing,” said Rockenfeller.
Urs Kuratle, Porsche’s director of Factory Racing, LMDh, says Porsche Motorsports will do everything possible to help JDC-Miller get up to speed, even as they try to catch up to their own internal struggles to produce cars and spares amid ongoing supply chain issues.
“We do whatever we can, and we do whatever is necessary,” declared Kuratle. “Obviously, this is still a prototype, it’s still, even for the works team, a new thing. And we are learning a lot every lap we are out there. We transfer all the information straightaway to all of our customers as we do with Jota Sport in WEC, and we will with JDC-Miller motorsports here in the IMSA Series. And we have to communicate very good because we already have two works teams. Now we have two customers, and to bring all the information together, it’s a big effort. But so far, so good. We are really happy (with) how it works so far, and we try to support as much as we can.”
The name of Porsche’s prototype is designed to evoke the 962, the race car of choice for many customer teams in the original era of GTP. IMSA President John Doonan is happy to see a customer car in the series, and says both the car and the team are appropriate.
“You look back at the history of GTP, in its heyday, if you will, the customer teams were really the lifeblood of the series, the category itself, and the growth of the championship,” Doonan said. “For me, this is a perfect model of that. And I think the fact that it’s JDC…I’ve had relationships with John Church and John Miller for some time. They’re a race-winning and, in several divisions, championship-winning team, so they’re not rookies at this. Obviously, these cars are highly technologically advanced compared to other cars in the world, and to have them be the first one, I think it’s pretty fitting for me, personally. But the other part of it is, IMSA’s foundational values are about customer racing and that’s a very stable and sustainable way that we will grow as a series. So to have these guys be the first one is, for me, special, but I think for us as a championship, it’s also quite special.”
JDC-Miller Motorsports has a long road ahead of it to get close the Porsche Penske Motorsports factory effort. This weekend is merely a small first step, but it’s a crucial one. And, so far, so good.
“We want to make every session and run as many laps as we can,” said Church. “It’s a test weekend, just getting a feel for everything. And like I keep telling the guys — we’re here to learn all the stuff we don’t know. There’s a lot of things we don’t know… So we got gotta go and run and figure it out.”
May 12, 2023
Rockenfeller on JDC-Miller’s objectives in team’s first race with Porsche 963…
By John Dagys from sportscar365.com
Mike Rockenfeller said completing every on-track session, including finishing Sunday’s Motul Course de Monterey powered by Hyundai N, would be like a victory for JDC-Miller Motorsports in the debut weekend for its Porsche 963.
The Minnesota-based squad has become the second customer team to run the LMDh car, and the first in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, with the ex-Porsche and Audi factory driver teaming up with Dutch up-and-coming driver Tijmen van der Helm in the No. 5 entry.
JDC-Miller has yet to complete any track-based testing with the car in the U.S., having taken delivery of the GTP class entry earlier this month following a rollout at Porsche’s Weissach test track with Matt Campbell at the wheel.
Friday’s practice session at Laguna Seca will mark its first competitive running, in what marks an “exciting” moment according to Rockenfeller.
“There’s a lot of things we don’t know yet,” he told Sportscar365. “I would say we all don’t have much experience. But that’s why we’re here, to learn and to start going.
“Honestly I think we can feel as winners if we do every session more or less on time, if we have no big issues, if we stay on track. If we finish the race, I’m happy.
“I would go home happy because we would learn a lot.”
He added: “We have zero laps. Those [Porsche Penske Motorsport] guys have races and tons of testing.
“If we are somehow fighting for something there with them, even if we’re last in the group, I would already be super happy.”
Rockenfeller said he’s excited to have landed a full season GTP drive, after previously contesting Michelin Endurance Cup races in recent years with Action Express Racing in the DPi era.
The 39-year-old German is also involved with NASCAR’s Garage 56 project in next month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“It means a lot,” Rockenfeller said of his drive with JDC-Miller. “I was fighting hard to get back into a proper cockpit.
“I spent many years of my career in a lucky situation. Five years at Porsche, 15 years in a row at Audi, so 20 years covered with a factory.
“Then everything changed very quickly at Audi and I was kind of thrown off the bus, like many others, and it was very tricky for me to find my way back.
“That’s why I’m so thankful for John [Church] and his team to give me the trust and opportunity to come back.
“I always tried to have my foot here in America while I was also racing in Europe and I think in the end that helped for sure.
“But you know how racing is, people forget what’s yesterday and that’s OK. I’m very happy to be involved.
“We shouldn’t expect too much this weekend, I would say, but hopefully throughout the year we can show the potential of the car, of our team and I can hopefully bring my part into it.”
Kuratle: JOTA Debut to Help JDC-Miller This Weekend
Porsche’s factory LMDh director Urs Kuratle believes that Hertz Team JOTA’s debut with its Porsche 963 in last month’s 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps helped better prepare the German manufacturer’s customer support network for JDC-Miller this weekend.
The British squad claimed a sixth place finish with its customer Porsche entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship round.
“I think there’s a lot we learned there,” Kuratle told Sportscar365. “The delivery [with JOTA] was at the same time [as JDC-Miller] and then we always had the shipment time here to the U.S.
“During the Spa race with JOTA we learned a lot of things also, mainly on our side, how to support the customer the best and what they really need.
“It’s such a complicated thing when it comes to software and everything and there’s a lot of points that we could take with us from the Spa event and we brought it straight in here to support the JDC guys as good as possible.
“I really hope for all of us, JDC and for Porsche, that we have a smooth weekend like we had in Spa, which was good.”
Kuratle said Porsche has a similar support base here this weekend for the customer GTP entry.
“It’s the same we had with JOTA in Spa,” he said. “Also back home in Weissach, we have the ops room where people are answering the questions all of us have.
“Like usual for Porsche, if you have a customer program, even the works team, there are questions asked and we’re not sending them away.”
Rockenfeller, meanwhile, is hopeful of being able to contribute to the Porsche 963’s development once JDC-Miller gets up to speed with the car.
“I hope we can give something back to Porsche in terms of learning and collecting data,” he said. “I think it’s a very complex car from what I understand. I think they’re all complex [cars in GTP].
“We just need to find a way to run it in a good window.
“My goal with the team is to get a wide operating window. If it’s too narrow, it’s hard to hit it. I think that, for us, would make our life easier.”