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Simpson: Watkins Glen Result Showed “What We’re Capable Of”

Simpson, JDC-Miller targeting race wins after first podium…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

On the heels of the team’s first overall podium result, JDC-Miller Motorsports driver Stephen Simpson says the team has all of the necessary ingredients to win races in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Teamed with co-drivers Misha Goikhberg and Chris Miller, Simpson led overall in the final minutes and finished second in last weekend’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, earning  a breakthrough podium in its first year in the top-level Prototype class.

Simpson took the lead on the race’s final restart in a daring move down the front straight and was involved in a heated duel with Action Express Racing driver Joao Barbosa in the final minutes.

The South African said being able to fight for the overall win in the final minutes was a thrill.

“It was great!” Simpson told Sportscar365. “JDC-Miller Motorsports guys have done a fantastic job and it’s been enjoyable every weekend that we go to, learning something new about the car and making some improvements.

“I’m just pleased that I was finally able to help get us a solid result, something I knew we were capable of, and I must say I really enjoyed being able to race those guys and fight for a win there at the end.

“I was determined to get a good restart and obviously there wasn’t much room when we were going side-by-side down the main straightaway, but honestly that’s what I expect.

“We’re racing at the highest level of sports car racing in North America and I didn’t expect anything less. Having said that, it was very tight, very tough racing but I didn’t have any problem with it. I enjoyed it.”

It’s been an impressive first year in the Prototype class for the longtime Prototype Challenge competitors, which made the step up with an all-new Oreca 07 Gibson for this season.

The small Minneapolis-based team has consistently been the strongest of the full-time IMSA competitors in LMP2 equipment, regularly taking the fight to the manufacturer-backed DPi teams.

Simpson said doing so with a  true Pro-Am lineup in a largely professional class has made their results all the more sweet.

“There are some very good drivers and driver pairings that we’re up against,” he said.

“There are guys that I have a lot of respect for, and to be beating some of them and fighting hard for victories, it does make it extra sweet, I have to admit.

“But having said that, certainly Sunday my teammates Chris and Misha drove very, very good races. They had good pace. They didn’t make any mistakes. They absolutely helped me do what I could do at the end.

“They put us in position where I could go out and fight for victory, which is key.”

Three fourth-place finishes in the first four races showed that the team was capable of competing with the established teams in the series, and now that JDC-Miller has reached the podium, Simpson said the goal is to climb to the top step.

“The nice thing about this year so far is how it has evolved for us as a team,” he said. “Coming into the start of the year, we didn’t know what we were realistic expectations.

“We knew we were up against some fantastic teams, drivers, and manufacturers, and we’re a small team with a pro-am lineup.

“We didn’t really know what to expect, but after the first couple of races and the pace that I felt in the car and the way the team were working, I really thought that we had something for these guys.

“We felt in the last couple of races that we were able to get a podium and it didn’t work out for whatever reason, but it’s part of the evolution with us and our Oreca as well.

“I’m just really pleased that the result Sunday was a strong one and showed what we’re capable of doing.

“We and I am here to win races. We’re not here to make up the numbers. Top three is our goal for all of the remaining races, and even though there was a bit of attrition on Sunday, I certainly don’t feel like that made it any easier for us.

“We really worked hard for it. Ultimately in the last 20 minutes of the race, to be leading and battling for the win, it goes to show that we can do this.”

Ryan Myrehn is an Indianapolis-based journalist and sportscaster, covering IMSA and Pirelli World Challenge. Myrehn, a graduate of DePauw University, is also the host of Sportscar365's “Double Stint” Podcast.

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