SA’s Stephen Simpson fights to fifth in bruising California IMSA race bout

South African Stephen Simpson and Canadian co-driver Misha Goikhberg ended fifth in a grinding Monterey Grand Prix US IMSA Prototype Challenge round at Laguna Seca, California Sunday evening following an intense dice to the flag to keep the #85 Hi-Tide Red Line JDC Miller ORECA Chevrolet duo in the championship lead.

Goikhberg started in sixth and handed the car to Simpson midway through the race in fifth position. The Indianapolis-based Capetonian then drove up to third among a six-car spat but wild racing though heavy traffic, tyre degradation and a late incident that ripped the rear bodywork off the Oreca all played their part to see Simpson end fifth after a hard day’s racing.

“It was a tough race,” Simpson admitted. “Really hard racing — in fact I finished without any rear bodywork on the car! “I really wanted to get on the podium for all the guys’ hard work, but we weren’t quite fast enough at the end. “I’m not concerned about the points right now — we’re taking it race by race, but I want to win races for the team.”

Simpson also competed in IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge sharing a JDC Miller Motorsports BMW 228i specially equipped with hand controls for paralysed co-driver Michael Johnson, who made a historic race debut. The car however refused to run properly all weekend, leaving Simpson without a race stint after Johnson stopped after losing power early on.

The IMSA series now heads to Detroit for the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic at the Belle Isle Park Raceway 3-4 June.

IMAGE: SA’s Stephen Simpson’s JDM Miller Oreca-Chevrolet dives through the infamous Laguna Seca Corkscrew