A Promising Debut as JDC-Miller Steps into the GTP Ring

MAY 30, 2023

The No. 5 Porsche Customer Team Looks to Build off a Competitive Showing at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca

By John Oreovicz for IMSA.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It’s neither simple nor inexpensive to field a Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The cars are complex and costly – if you can even get one.

As so happens, Porsche has maintained a longtime tradition by offering the same 963 GTP car fielded by its factory team – Porsche Penske Motorsport – to privateers or customer teams. JDC-Miller MotorSports is the first IMSA team to step up to the challenge.

Last June at Watkins Glen International, JDC-Miller managing partners John Church and John Miller announced that they had committed the necessary $2.9 million to acquire their own 963, complete with Porsche factory engineering support. Thus began what turned into an 11-month wait, exacerbated by a worldwide shortage of key electronic sensors and spare parts.

Porsche factory driver Matt Campbell gave the JDC-Miller 963 a brief shakedown at the marque’s Weissach test track in Germany on April 20, and the team finally received its shiny new toy in Chicago six days after that. By the time JDC-Miller rolled up to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca two weeks later, the 963 wore a sporty new yellow wrap and the No. 5 for drivers Mike Rockenfeller and Tijmen van der Helm.

Church admitted he and Miller asked themselves, “What have we gotten into?” more than a few times over the last year or so.

“But I’ve been doing that for years,” Church added with a chuckle. “You think that, and then at the same time, you go, ‘Who else has opportunities like this?’ You have to be thankful for the opportunity. But yeah, lately it’s been a lot of, ‘We could have gone boating.’

“This year is a complete learning year for us, and we’re trying to remind the guys of that,” Church continued. “Don’t panic about the pace, don’t panic about where we’re at. Let’s go out and learn, figure it out and understand, and it’ll come. We’ve been successful in everything we’ve ever done. It’s going to take some time with this one, a little longer than normal.”

Church and the JDC-Miller team had realistic expectations for their debut race, the Motul Course de Monterey Powered by Hyundai N on May 14. They treated the three days on track as a test session, something they simply did not have time for prior to the WeatherTech Raceway weekend.

They could have gone testing and delayed their 2023 competition baptism until the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen in late June, but Church saw greater value in putting the operation through the pressure and time constraints of a race weekend.

“It’s a test weekend to get a feel for things,” he said. “I keep telling the guys that we’re here to learn the stuff we don’t know, and there’s a lot of things we don’t know that we don’t know. You don’t know what to expect until you start running the car.

“Now we can go home and analyze what happened at Laguna Seca, and then we really need to go and do a two-day test somewhere and continue learning about the car. The car has a lot of really cool stuff; it’s an awesome car, and we have the goal of upgrading every weekend. It’s just going to take a little while. But that’s part of the fun. Everything is a challenge; you just have to figure it out.”

Driver Lineup Combines Top-Level Experience with Talented Youth

Miller and Church opted for a driver lineup that combines Rockenfeller’s impressive history in a variety of sports cars with the youth and potential of van der Helm, a 19-year-old Dutchman who finished fourth in class in the 2022 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) shared with rookie Formula 1 driver Nyck de Vries.

Rockenfeller believes his role is to “calm things down” and use his vast experience to help JDC-Miller get the best out of the most complex car it has ever fielded.

The team has an impressive record of punching over its weight in WeatherTech Championship competition, scoring an overall victory at Watkins Glen in 2018 with its LMP2 over all the cars in the top Prototype class which also featured Daytona Prototype international (DPi) cars. JDC-Miller ran a customer Cadillac DPi for the last four years, claiming victory in the 2021 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and 10 other podium finishes.

“It’s a big challenge to learn the car and know the team,” said Rockenfeller. “I think I’ve seen a lot, and there’s a lot of experience in the team. That’s what you need, especially when you have no testing, no preparation. We are maybe a little bit the underdog, but I think not so bad.

“At the end of the day, it’s still a car with four wheels, two pedals and a steering wheel,” he added. “We just need to understand it and get a routine.”

Although the results of JDC-Miller’s WeatherTech Raceway weekend don’t look spectacular on paper, the team came away extremely happy. As expected, van der Helm and the No. 5 car qualified ninth for last in class, 2.2 seconds off the pole-winning time set by Campbell in the No. 7 Porsche. But Rockenfeller was impressed, saying his young co-driver “did a damn good job” and “has great potential.”

“A bit nervous, I didn’t know what to expect,” van der Helm noted. “I’ve never driven Laguna Seca, and a new car.

“Of course, it’s big – this is the highest (level) car that I ever drove,” he added. “Of course, more buttons, more everything, a different type of clutch, but I think I will enjoy it a lot.”

Every goal was also achieved in the race, as van der Helm and Rockenfeller brought the JDC-Miller 963 to the finish on the lead lap and without a scratch in seventh place, besting one of the BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8s and the troubled pole-qualifying Porsche. Even more impressive, Rockenfeller’s best race lap was just 0.416 seconds slower than the fastest Porsche, Nick Tandy in the factory No. 6.

The team’s performance impressed Rockenfeller, whose vast resume includes stints with factory racing programs for Porsche, Audi and Corvette and a pair of victories at Le Mans. The 39-year-old German, who has also co-driven to wins at Sebring and the Rolex 24 At Daytona, is delighted to be back in IMSA fulltime.

“It was very tricky to find my way back,” he said. “I’m so thankful to John and his team to give me the trust and the opportunity to come back to IMSA. I’m very happy to be involved, and hopefully throughout the year, we can show the potential of this car.”

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.”

JDC-Miller MotorSports announces 2023 Porsche 963 GTP program driver lineup

Mike Rockenfeller and Tijmen van der Helm join JDC-Miller MotorSports 2023 Porsche 963 GTP campaign in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Savage, Minnesota (April 26, 2023). JDC-Miller MotorSports confirmed today that Mike Rockenfeller and Tijmen van der Helm will lead the driver lineup of the team’s new IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Porsche 963 entry in the GTP class. The Minnesota-based race team will debut the first customer effort in the prototype category at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on May 12-14.

Mike Rockenfeller’s sports car racing history is truly remarkable. A veteran of the Porsche Motorsport Pyramid, the German prodigy began his association with the brand in 2003 racing in the Porsche Carrera Cup Germany. His career spans multi-year stints as a factory driver for Porsche, Audi, and Corvette. He has wins at Le Mans (2), Daytona, Sebring, the Nürburgring 24 and a championship in the fiercely competitive German Touring Cars (DTM). With his infectious smile, the 39-year-old is a favorite in the paddock. His personality is a perfect fit for the JDC-Miller team bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience at the highest levels of sports car racing.

While anticipating the delivery of its Porsche 963, van der Helm competed with JDC-Miller MotorSports in its LMP3 class entry at both the Rolex 24 At Daytona as well as the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring earlier this season.  The championship-winning team owned by John Miller and John Church helped the Dutch driver celebrate his 19th birthday at Daytona with a top-five finish. In 2022, he competed in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the European Le Mans Series in the LMP2 class including his first start at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans. A third driver for the Michelin Endurance Championship events will be announced at a future date.


Mike Rockenfeller, No. 5 JDC-Miller MotorSports Porsche 963

“I am excited to be part of this team and the Porsche 963 project! Starting our GTP season at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for the fourth round of the season is going to be a challenge. I am confident the JDC-Miller MotorSports team is on a very steep learning curve and will compete with the GTP teams very quickly. So very happy to see my name back on a Porsche.”

Tijmen van der Helm, No. 5 JDC-Miller MotorSports Porsche 963

“I am really happy to be a part of JDC-Miller MotorSports Porsche 963 LMDh project. To me it does not really matter that we start a bit later in the season. I think we as a team can maximize every opportunity we will get. Going to the Laguna race with a brand-new car will be tough, but I have no doubt that we will be competitive as a team. I look forward to the challenge and opportunity!”

John Church, Managing Partner, JDC-Miller MotorSports

“We are very proud to announce the new driver lineup for our 2023 GTP campaign with the Porsche 963. It represents a balance of youth and experience and features a tremendous amount of on-track success. This pairing combined with the Porsche 963 will allow us to compete for wins in IMSA.” 

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 to its growing list of accolades.

For the 2023 season, JDC-Miller MotorSports entered into an agreement with Porsche 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.