The top overachieving privateer squad of 2017 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will stay intact for 2018, with JDC-Miller Motorsports again confirming Stephen Simpson and Misha Goikhberg to return for the full season in the team’s No. 85 Oreca 07 Gibson. Chris Miller, as in 2017, will be the team’s third driver in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races with a fourth driver for the Rolex 24 at Daytona (this was Mathias Beche in 2017) to be confirmed later.
Simpson and Goikhberg ended fourth in Prototype class points, which was a mightily impressive haul because they ended behind only the trio of Cadillac DPi-V.R entries and ahead of the Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPis, which had early season mechanical issues, and the Mazda RT24-Ps, which stopped their 2017 program midseason to focus on 2018 development with an “evo” spec of its car.
Back-to-back runner-up finishes at Watkins Glen and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park were the main season highlight, although both could have been wins with a bit of luck. Nonetheless, it was a mightily successful first season step up to Prototype for the John Church-led squad, with finishes between second and sixth in all but one of the 10 races.
“I’m excited to be continuing my strong relationship with JDC-Miller Motorsports and sharing the #85 car with Misha and Chris for another year,” Simpson said. “Continuity and chemistry has been key to our strong 2017 season and I relish the added competition that the 2018 season promises. I’m confident we can build on what we have learned and head into the new season with high expectations.”
Goikhberg added, “I’m glad to be back with JDC-Miller for another season and am very curious to see what we can do with a year under our belt. The competition is getting very high and we welcome the challenge. I think we can still improve in all areas as we look to make a more sustained and targeted challenge at the championship and capture that first elusive win. I’m very happy that we have continuity in the driver line-up as well and look forward to co-driving again with two very strong drivers in Stephen and Chris.”
The team has already begun private testing with this crew. As for the team’s planned second car, several candidates are being considered.
Following up this year’s success in a significantly deeper field next year, with at least nine and possibly 10 DPis for the full-season from Cadillac, Nissan, Mazda and Acura, will be a greater challenge – but the continuity within the team, quality of the preparation and BoP to keep LMP2-spec cars in the game should give the fan favorite “JDC Banana Boat” crew a proper chance.