South Africa’s Stephen Simpson is champing at the bit in anticipation of challenging for outright victory in this year’s Rolex Daytona 24-hour, following his first outing in JDC-Miller MotorSports brand new ORECA 07 Gibson sports prototype racer in the ‘Roar Before the 24’ test last week. The team steps up to the newly formed LMP2-spec top class in 2017 after a victorious season in Prototype Challenge last season.
Stephen, who will share the brand new LMP2 specification coupe Prototype racer with regular teammates, Russo-Canadian Misha Goikhberg and US driver Chris Miller, along with Swiss WEC ace Mathias Beche, will be looking to repeat their Daytona Prototype Challenge class win last year, before Stephen and Misha went on to end third in that 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship class driver championship.
“First off, I am very happy to be continuing my long standing relationship with JDC Miller Motorsports,” Simpson admitted. “Racing for the team in the full 2017 IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship is exciting and something we have been planning since early last year.
“To be competing for outright race wins will be challenging, as we are up against some of the best drivers and teams in North America, but I feel we are up for the challenge. “The ROAR test was a good one on the Prototype side, where our goal was to get in as many laps as we could, because the car is still new to us as drivers and the team.
“We were able to get on track on all 3 days of the test even though the weather wasn’t your typical hot and sunny Florida – it rained Saturday and was cold and windy on Sunday at just 7 degrees C – but still, we were able to make some setup changes and start to learn how the car evolves over long runs and when the tires start going off. “I feel good about where we are as we head into race weekend in 2 weeks – JDC Miller Motorsports has prepared a really great car!
Simpson is also looking forward to a full season in the IMSA Continental sports production series alongside paraplegic teammate Michael Johnson in their BMW 228i this year. “On the BMW side, we made some good progress on the car,” Stephen explained. “JDC Miller Motorsports did a great job rebuilding the Beemer after our shunt at the final race of the 2016 season at Road Atlanta – it’s as if it was never crashed and I felt we had good pace throughout the weekend. My teammate, Michael Johnson also did a great job on his first time to Daytona.
“Our continental race with the BMW is on Friday, January 27 – the day before the 24 hour race and it will be extra interesting this year because the race has been extended to a 4 hour race instead of the typical 2 hour 30 minute run. “Four hours is a long time and as in endurance racing, it’s not necessarily the fastest car that will win the race.”
Getting back to the prototype, South Africa A1 Grand Prix driver Simpson, Minnesota native Miller; multiple US champion in a number of different series Miller and ORECA WEC stalwart Beche form a formidable team at Daytona. The JDC-Miller squad won their class below in Prototype Challenge last year. There would be nothing that would please them more than to go one better with an overall win this year.