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.”