Stephen Simpson is hoping the new Michelin tire introduced into the DPi class will help level part of JDC-Miller Motorsports’ learning curve with its move to the Cadillac DPi-V.R next year.
The Minnesota-based team will make the switch from Oreca 07 Gibson LMP2 machinery to Dallara-built Cadillac DPis, as part of a two-car full-season effort in the now-standalone top prototype class.
While having recently taken delivery of its first car and set to begin on-track testing next month, JDC-Miller, as well as all other DPi teams, will have the added variable of coming to grips with the new-for-2019 tire.
Simpson got his first taste of Michelin’s prototype tire offering during an ‘On Track Opportunity’ at Watkins Glen this summer, although coming in the team’s LMP2 car.
With additional Michelin experience under his belt from last weekend’s Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore, where he co-drove the team’s Audi RS 3 LMS TCR to a second place class finish, the South African feels the difference in the tire compared to the outgoing Continentals could play into their hands.
“I’m hopeful that with the new tire, the tire test we’ve done this year with Michelin in the prototype, it was different to the Continentals,” Simpson told Sportscar365.
“All the other [DPi] teams and Cadillacs are maybe not starting from scratch but they are going to have to figure out the tire as well.
“I’m very excited to get in the Cadillac and get working on next year. But we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Simpson said he’s eager to turn his first laps in the Cadillac DPi, which should come by mid-December, with multiple tests planned prior to the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“I live in Indianapolis so I was down at Dallara before the guys took the car,” he said.
“It’s definitely bigger insider than the Oreca, so it should be a little easier to get a bit more comfortable. I’m very excited to get going.”
While having teamed with Misha Goikhberg to finish fourth in the Prototype standings this year, highlighted by a win in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, Simpson will have a new co-driver in the GAINSCO-sponsored entry for 2019.
He said winning races will continue to be the objective, however.
“I think we’ve all put ourselves under a bit of pressure,” Simpson said. “I don’t think there’s necessarily more pressure to do better now that we’re in a DPi.
“It’s exciting to know that we’re going to be in the class, and on average, we’ll have more opportunities to be running up front next year.
“I just want to really capitalize on the opportunity we have.
“Ultimately I want us to win races again next year. That’s what we’re working towards and that’s what I believe we can do.”
The identity of Simpson’s co-driver is expected to be announced in the coming weeks, with 2018 Jim Trueman Award winner Goikhberg set to move over to the team’s No. 85 Cadillac DPi.