Throughout the year, Continental Tire will focus on celebrating the fans, media, drivers, and teams and their contributions to sports car racing, including a weekly trip down memory lane in Sportscar365’s Continental Tire IMSA Reflections series.
This week, Marc Miller looks back on his time racing in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series, the legacy of Continental Tire in sports car racing, and more.
How significant has the Continental Tire Challenge series been to you and your career?
“My very first IMSA start was in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge at Daytona with CJ Wilson Racing in 2012.
“I essentially started my sports car career with that core team and my entire production car racing career has been in the Continental Tire Challenge with CJ Wilson Racing.
“It is one of the most competitive series with great teams and full of talented racers.”
What are some of the highlights for your from your time in that series?
“My second race was at Barber and I qualified half a tenth off pole against the factory Kia driven by Andy Lally. I raced alongside Andy in the WKA Gold Cup series in karting and we each earned titles the same year.
“I always looked at him as a benchmark and that still holds true, so to dice it up with him for over an hour and leading the race strongly made me realize I really belonged to be there as a driver.
“Since then I have gone on to set track records, win races in both ST and GS and have the opportunity to move up the ladder to GT Daytona and the WeatherTech series and dice it up with Andy in GT3 cars, all on Continental Racing Tires.
“Just about every halfway good moment is considered a highlight for me.”
As a former participant in the ST class, what made racing in ST unique and fulfilling?
“The most interesting thing about ST class was the variety of cars that competed: front drive versus rear drive, turbo versus non-turbo, two-door sport coupes versus four-door sedans versus hatchbacks, four-cylinder versus six-cylinder, light versus heavy.
“There was such a eclectic mix of cars that you never knew how you would stack up until you got on track. Strategy always played a part and so did luck.
“It wasn’t always ideal but the overall championship was the goals so sometimes your machine could only muster a top-12 against the competition, but if you did everything perfect and pulled off a sixth or eighth, it went a long way and felt like a win.”
Your 2016 GS class season was remarkably consistent: seven podiums and a win in ten races and second in the championship battling with the Multimatic Mustang team. What stands out in your mind about that year?
“We constantly spent time developing our car. It was the first year of the Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport and it was not really supplied to race in endurance competition, so all that work was left to us to make happen.
“Some of our lack of wins were down to miscues in the pit or fueling times being too slow as we worked through some of the problems but we routinely were the fastest car on track and as a driver that felt good.
“We tried really hard to beat Multimatic, but they are a powerhouse team. We all collectively worked hard to compete for that championship and it felt good that we could pressure them so much race in and race out.”
What is the legacy for Continental Tire on IMSA?
“Continental Tire came to our series at a pivotal time and firmly said to every competitor: we support you. It provided a huge amount of stability and opportunity for the teams, drivers and fans.
“They did things with our series that they didn’t have to. Things like extra promotions for teams and drivers, including us in advertisements and working alongside us to help teams build strong relationships with our sponsors.
“As far as racing sponsorships go, they set the bar high and I hope future partners look at what they did as a baseline.
“Because of all that and the friendships created over the last six-plus years, they have created a loyal customer as well.
“My entire family’s garage is full of Continentals: five bikes, a motorcycle (and another soon), and two cars, all wearing Contis. I think that says a lot for their legacy.”