Miller, Taylor, No. 17 Earn Third Straight TCR Win of Season

May 11, 2024

By John Oreovicz and Mark Robinson IMSA Wire Service

Chris Miller and Mikey Taylor kept their perfect 2024 season intact in the Touring Car (TCR) portion of the Michelin Pilot Challenge by following the same recipe of success.

As he did in the first two races this year, Miller put the No. 17 Unitronic/JDC-Miller MotorSports Audi RS3 LMS TCR in contention at WeatherTech Raceway, then Taylor powered the car into the lead and on to victory lane.

Taylor passed a pair of Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundais in the final 21 minutes of the two-hour race to secure the third win in as many outings this season for the No. 17 Audi. It’s been a rewarding beginning to 2024 for the JDC-Miller team after a shot at winning the TCR championship slipped away in the 2023 finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

“We’re focused on winning this championship after it got away from us in Atlanta last year,” Taylor said.

Miller started second in TCR but a miscue behind a GS car during his stint dropped him to fifth place when he turned the No. 17 over to Taylor on a pit stop. Taylor trailed leader Mason Filippi in the No. 98 BHA Hyundai Elantra N TCR by eight seconds with 45 minutes remaining but chipped away the deficit quickly.

Taylor shoved his way past Robert Wickens in the No. 33 BHA Hyundai through the Andretti Hairpin with 21 minutes to go. Two laps later, he followed a pair of GS cars past Filippi in the same spot to grab the lead and went on to win by 1.254 seconds.

“I don’t think we had crazy outright speed, but on old tires, which is what this track is known for, we were OK,” Taylor said. “It was a couple tough passes. The GS guys helped me out a little bit, making some holes, and we took what we could.

“It feels great, feels great,” Taylor added. “I had my mind on my wedding next week a little bit, but it feels good to be here. Great points for the team and just happy for everyone in the program.”

The win was the ninth for Taylor in Michelin Pilot Challenge competition and the eighth for Miller. Meanwhile, Filippi and co-driver Mark Wilkins, trying to repeat as the WeatherTech Raceway TCR winners, felt that second place was the best they could do on this day.

“I think we did the best we could today,” Wilkins said. “We can’t compete with that car with the pace right now that they can run, so for us, we were just trying to make as few mistakes as possible. We ran really a perfect day in my opinion, so second is a win for us today.”

Saturday’s race broadcast will air at 1 p.m. ET Saturday, May 18 on CNBC. Both classes of the Michelin Pilot Challenge return to action June 6-8 at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Four Hours of Mid-Ohio.

JDC-Miller MotorSports returns to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for the first anniversary of their customer Porsche 963 GTP program

Savage, Minnesota (May 6, 2024). JDC-Miller MotorSports is returning to
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, where they debuted their Porsche 963 GTP
campaign one year ago. Last year, the JDC-Miller MotorSports team brought their two
week-old 963 to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca to shake down the car in a most
public way. Prior to Practice 1, the team had only made a lap around their parking lot
with the new car. Typically, in motorsports, this would be considered very risky, akin to
learning to swim by diving into the deep end of the pool; the team, however, had
confidence in their abilities and the abilities of their partners in this project.

With the help of their technical partners, Porsche Motorsport NA, Multimatic, Bosch, and
WAE Technologies, the team powered through the concise timeframe and soldiered on
to finish 7th of the 8 GTP cars and only 23 seconds behind the race winner. Gaining that
race experience set the stage for upcoming solid performances for the remainder of the
season.

For the 2024 Motul Course de Monterey Powered by Hyundai N, the team returns
knowing the car and how it responds to changes. They now have experience with the
GTP-class Michelin tires and are well-rehearsed on pit stops and driver changes.
Richard Westbrook returns to one of his favorite tracks with three wins at WeatherTech
Raceway Laguna Seca under his belt. For Tijmen van der Helm, the tracks, with the
exception of Detroit, will no longer be new to him as he returns to each of them behind
his Porsche 963 GTP wheel.

The team is confidently looking forward to this year’s race.

Quotes:

John Church, Managing Partner, No. 85 JDC-Miller MotorSports Porsche 963

“Last year, we decided to take an aggressive approach to rolling out the new car. Early
in the year, we knew we would not have the Porsche for Sebring, so our attention
shifted to Laguna Seca. The Porsche team in Weissach worked through many
challenges to get the car together and shipped, but it was clear that the timing would be
very tight. We could have waited to debut the car at Watkins Glen a month later, but I
felt strongly that we needed to start gaining experience and knowledge of this complex
machine as soon as possible. The entire JDC-Miller MotorSports crew was fully
onboard with this approach, as we were all excited to get our Porsche 963 program
underway. Through herculean efforts and many long nights by many people, we
performed very well at Laguna Seca. What we learned that weekend set us up for 4th
place finishes at the next two races, Watkins Glen and CTMP. While incredibly stressful,
we learned much about the Porsche 963 and the GTP program. Knowledge and race
experience that benefits us today. I am really looking forward to this weekend.”

Ryan Perera, Systems Engineer, No. 85 JDC-Miller MotorSports Porsche 963

“Looking back at this weekend one year ago, we went to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna
Seca, knowing our partners would help us get the car ready for the race.

There was a massive outpouring of support from our technical partners, Porsche,
Multimatic, Bosch, and WAE, who were all as excited to see this car on the track as we
were. At times, there were a dozen knowledgeable and skilled people in our garage
looking to make valuable changes and updates to the car. People were queuing up to
plug their laptops into the vehicle. It quickly became overwhelming as we had not
completely thought through how we needed to manage this process. The stress level
rose until John (Managing Partner John Church) put a stop to making changes and
directed everyone to get focused on readying the car for the race. That allowed us to
focus on fixing the issues you inevitably have with all new cars and establish a
performance baseline we are building on to this day.

After that experience, we established a process to work with our technical partners and
maximize their valuable expertise in an organized manner.

As stressful as it was, I feel a great deal of pride when looking back on that weekend.
We went to Laguna Seca to shakedown a brand-new car unlike anything we had raced
before and finished on the lead lap. Quite an accomplishment!

Josh Kerrigan, Car Chief, No. 85 JDC-Miller MotorSports Porsche 963

“We spent a couple of weeks at Porsche in Weissach learning about the car and its
systems as well as how everything went together. Our challenge for Laguna Seca was
simply time. We didn’t have any. With a new car, a ton of electrical and other
components must be installed. The punch list is always very long, but even longer with
all the added systems of a GTP car. Unfortunately, we had the car in our shop for less
than a week before the truck headed west. The drivers came and were fitted to the car.
We went through the start-up process just one time before the car had to leave. When
the trailer was opened at Laguna Seca, there was a tremendous amount of work yet to
do to make the car ready for the race. Pit stops under GTP rules had to be worked out
and practiced, as well as driver changes. Every night was a very long night.

The payoff for all the hard work came on race day. When Tijmen took the checker on
the lead lap, all I could think of was, “Wow, we did it!”

JDC-Miller Porsche 963 debut “better than expected” at Laguna

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

#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.”

First GTP customer team JDC-Miller on steep learning curve at Laguna

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.”

Rockenfeller: Race Finish Would Be Like a Win for JDC-Miller

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.”