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, JDC-Miller Motorsports driver Stephen Simpson reflects on the pivotal 2016 season and how it helped shape his racing career.
What was the significance of your 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona Prototype Challenge class win for you and your career? Did it help put you back on the map?
“Our Rolex 24 win was a big deal for me personally and as a team.
“Two years earlier JDC-Miller Motorsports entered its first sports car race, the Sebring 12h and that was my first professional race back after being out of a race car for six years, so our Daytona win was our first sports car win as a group which was special and the fact it was our biggest race of the year was a big bonus!
“I don’t think winning the race put me back on the map necessarily, but it certainly confirmed to us as a team that we had the people, equipment and ability to win.”
What most stands out to you when you reflect on the race itself?
“How much of an emotional roll-a-coaster that race was and is! I remember we had a good start, taking the lead into the first corner and after my first few stints we had put ourselves in a strong position at the front.
“In a 24-hour race, issues and problems are going to come up, which they did and the team did such a great job overcoming them!
“I also remember my wife bringing two boxes of fresh Krispy Kreme donuts to the track for the crew at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning, I remember telling myself when the race is done I’ll be getting stuck into one!
“Well after the race and celebrations were done, I think I ate about 3 of them and they were amazing!”
What were your expectations going into that race in 2016?
“Honestly my expectations were very high. I really believed we could win the race. We had a good test six weeks before the race and over the Roar [Before the 24] weekend we were fine tuning what we had.
“In fact, I remember having a conversation at the back of the transporter with [team owner] John Church about how positive I felt about where we were at and we ended up backing up a day early and not doing the final test day on the Sunday.
“We were very well prepared going into the race weekend and It was one of those races were I felt like we hadn’t left any stone unturned.”
How important was your success that year, two wins and third in the class championship, in the team’s decision making process to make the jump to the Prototype class in 2017?
“It actually didn’t make much of a difference in our decision to move to the prototype class.
“Our initial serious conversations took place soon after our Daytona win, however we all felt we had more to achieve in the PC class so I was very determined to make sure the remainder of that 2016 season was a success one for JDC Miller Motorsports.
“Winning Long Beach [later that season] was another great moment.”
How helpful has it been to be able to be linked with your co-driver Misha Goikhberg for so many years?
“It has been great and I have to add Chris Miller in there as well. Misha and I race full time together and Chris joins us for the four Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup events.
“I really believe the chemistry that Chris, Misha and I have is an advantage and part of the reason we have been successful.
“We have gotten to know each other very well, understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and provide one another with the best environment to get the most out of ourselves.
“We also get on really well, our wives have become close friends and we genuinely have a lot of fun and many laughs together.”