Stephen Simpson is hoping to rebound from what’s been characterized as a challenging first year for the pair of JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi-V.Rs.
The Minnesota-based team closed out the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finishing eighth and ninth in the DPi championship, going winless after a breakthrough overall victory and fourth place finish in the Prototype standings in 2018.
An off-season switch from Oreca 07 Gibson LMP2 machinery to the Dallara-built Cadillac DPis — in order to remain in the top class — and increased competition, proved to be a bigger hurdle than initially expected, according to Simpson.
“This year has been tough, no doubt about it,” he told Sportscar365.
“We need to go into next year building off what we learned this year. We’re not here to make up the numbers. We’re here to be running up front and challenging for victories.
“That’s definitely got to be the plan for next year.”
Simpson said coming to grips with the Cadillac DPi proved to be a “big change” for their engineers, while competing alongside the established Action Express Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing teams which headed into the season with two years of experience with the car.
“The Dallara is so different to the ORECA in so many different ways,” Simpson said. “There were races this year where we had a setup program we were trying to solve.
“Last year we went stiffer on springs and it helped the issue and this year with the same problem, the same track, we had to go softer to fix that same issue.
“That’s just an example of how different the cars are.
“They’re different from an engineering point-of-view, a driving point-of-view.
“It’s been a big change, that thrown in with the fact that DPi is so competitive at the moment. The other two main Cadillac teams have a two-year advantage on us.”
With a two-car return already confirmed for 2020, Simpson said the focus will be on learning from their experiences.
“Next year we’ll have a much better picture of which tire we’re going to be using,” he said. “Everything we’ve learned tire-wise this year we’ll be able to relate next year.
“The last two races we’ve been making actually quite a bit of progress. It’s just the results haven’t shown it yet.
“At Laguna we were going in the right direction, it was just in the race our tire degradation was just horrific. That was our downfall.
“At Petit Le Mans, both cars were quick.
“It’s a case of taking everything we’ve learned, good and bad, and applying it next year and just taking the next step.”
Simpson, Johnson Set for TCR Return
The team’s Audi RS 3 LMS TCR program is set to also return with Simpson and Michael Johnson at the wheel, although it will be with a new chassis following Johnson’s heavy accident in the Road Atlanta season finale.
Out of the ten Michelin Pilot Challenge rounds, Simpson managed to get into the car in . only four races due to unlucky breaks and incidents.
“Michael has been driving really well,” Simpson said. “The results haven’t been there for us at the end of the day to really show our speed.
“We had the pace at all of the races this year. We had a very fast car and had no results, so we need to change that for next year.”