IMSA Daytona 24 Race Report – But SA’s Simpson keeps 100% record

South Africa’s Stephen Simpson and JDC-Miller Motorsports teammates, Russo-Canadian Misha Goikhberg, US driver Chris Miller and Swiss Mathias Beche brought the team’s brand new top class IMSA Prototype ORECA-Gibson 07 home fifth among the Prototype entries in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona on the weekend, but it proved a tougher task than usual for the quartet thanks to unexpected race conditions.

“Daytona was a long, very mentally tough race this year, mainly because of the weather,” Indianapolis-based Capetonian Simpson explained. “About half the race was run in the rain and on a track that was greasy with low grip in the cold conditions, so it was a real challenge, but all in all finishing fifth was good and we kept up our 100% finishing record at Daytona intact.

Simpson made his way up to fifth in the opening stint after starting eighth and the team spent most of the first half well inside the top ten, but an issue in the middle of the night saw the JDC Oreca drop back before mounting a steady fight back on Sunday morning to end up fifth Prototype home.

“JDC Miller Motorsports prepared a great car; my teammates all drove well and in the tricky conditions no one made any big mistakes, which was very easy to do, so it really was a team effort to get us across the line.

“On my run, I was happy to make up 2 positions at the start and I enjoyed a solid first stint and we also had good pace in the middle of the night in tricky conditions and it was good to be able to run strongly. “Most importantly I feel that we learned a lot about our new car as a team and all in all, it was a solid start to the new season – we finished the 55th #Rolex24 13th overall, 5th in class and we were the highest finishing #Oreca07 in its race debut – now for Sebring!”

Simpson also raced the JDC-Miller BMW 228i in Friday’s Continental Tire Sportscar race with US driver Michael Johnson. “On the BMW front, we continued to make good progress,” Stephen reported. “We have a new race engineer this year and we were able to make good improvements over the weekend that we feel we can carry into all races this year.”

Simpson and Johnson were up to fourth in class after the first hour, “Ultimately we had to retire from the race due to an engine issue,” Simpson concluded. “We will be back strongly for the second round of the championship at Sebring in March.”