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, Paul Miller looks back on his team’s first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship title, the relationship that he has built with Lamborghini, and more.
You’ve been in the business of sports car racing as a driver and team owner for awhile, what is the significance of breaking through for that first championship in IMSA?
“I’ve had people ask me if this is my first championship and I said, ‘Yep!’ It’s kind of an embarrassing admission I suppose, but we have a great team and what’s neat is that we haven’t changed a lot of the composition of our team.
“Mitchell Simmons has been our team manager for over 10 years now and there’s been a lot of continuity in the guys on our team. It’s been a great season, we didn’t really have any major problems in the races.
“This is a crazy sport. Even when you have all the right people doing all the right things, strange stuff can happen and we were just really blessed this year.
“We had a perfect season. As strange as this sounds, I really think we had the guiding hand of God with us.
“A lot of times, because there are so many close calls and this is a game of inches in so many respects, to be able to come through all of the races we came through and have the kinds of finishes that we did, to have eight podiums and a couple of wins out of 11 races, it was a really remarkable season.”
What is the value in having your full season drivers together for the past three years?
“Having Bryan and Madison together, finishing their third year together, it’s been a great relationship.
“Madison’s really grown and developed over that period of time and there’s no question that has something to do with the kind of results that we had.
“The relationship between Bryan and Madison, they’ve actually become great friends.
“Bryan lives close to the shop so we have the added advantage of having him be able to come into the shop regularly and speak with the crew and keep everyone engaged.”
What was it like to be in such a close battle with Meyer Shank Racing for the championship throughout the year?
“There were times where it got a little feisty! Overall, though, Mike Shank has been at this a lot longer than we have and he’s won at a very high level.
“He’s really a formidable competitor for us. There’s no question that he runs one of the better programs in our paddock, regardless of class. They just wouldn’t go away.
“Several people made the comment to me that with the number of points that we had accumulated, we should have won the championship well before the season finale! But it was just that way all season long.
“Candidly, it was a great season just from a competitive point of view. You have to love it. That’s what we all do this for: the competition.
“It felt like it raised our game and raised their game, and I think we were both operating at a super-high level at the end of the season.”
How much does it mean to be able to deliver the manufacturers’ championship to Lamborghini?
“They’ve really been instrumental. We put our package together with Lamborghini in the fall of 2015 and have really stayed with them and worked with them.
“Mitchell and I have made many trips back and forth to Bologna, and it’s been a great relationship. It’s evolved in a very positive way.
“One of the things you realize about Lamborghini working with them is that this is their top class. For them to have a championship at the GT3 level is a huge deal because of that.
“We got a great letter from [Lamborghini CEO] Stefano Domenicali, and that’s a huge thing. To be involved with a small company where you’re getting a letter from the CEO that you can share with your whole team the day after the event is a huge deal.
“We know it’s a huge deal for Lamborghini. We’re just a private team with some great technical support and we really felt like we had great backing from Lamborghini every step of the way.”
Does winning the championship in the final year for Continental Tire add to the achievement?
“It really does. We’ve had a fantastic relationship with Continental. They’ve helped us a lot technically and otherwise, so it’s been a great run.
“On a personal level I’m really sorry to see them move out the way. They’ve been a great partner to all of the teams in the paddock.”