Photo courtesy of IMSA

Simpson, Goikhberg confirmed for return at JDC-Miller

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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.

NHRA: Dodge/Mopar to unveil new Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car today in Denver

Photos/video courtesy Dodge/Mopar
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If you’re a fan of NHRA Funny Car racing and Dodge/Mopar, you may notice something different at this weekend’s Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in suburban Denver, Colorado.

Two-time (2011 and 2014) NHRA Funny Car champ Matt Hagan – who has won the last two NHRA national events in the last four weeks – will be piloting a newly-designed 2019 Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, a 10,000-horsepower Funny Car that makes its debut today at Dodge/Mopar’s premier NHRA national event.

The new Charger SRT Hellcat succeeds the former Mopar Dodge Charger R/T, which had been in use since 2015.

“We improved on the body design,” Hagan said of the new Charger Hellcat. “It was already a great design, a great body. But now, we’re going to have a little more downforce, a little more traction on these racetracks and it will be a huge performance advantage.”

The new Hellcat includes a number of innovations, including a new front splitter to increase downforce. Just like its predecessor, the R/T, the Hellcat will go head-to-head with Chevrolet’s Camaro in the NHRA Funny Car ranks.

“We will be able to press harder with more downforce on the nose, which translates into huge amounts of downforce on the run,” Hagan said.

According to a media release, the new Hellcat features major design changes in three key areas: the front end, bodysides and burst panel placement:

* “At the front, the shape of the nose has been tweaked and a new splitter (photo), built of carbon fiber and Kevlar like the rest of the Funny Car body, has been added. The splitter substantially mimics the look and shape of the production vehicle’s splitter while generating greater downforce to help plant the Funny Car to the track.

* “Bodyside scallops have been redesigned to more closely identify with the production Hellcat while also enhancing on-track function and performance. The deeper character lines provide greater visual ties to the street version of the Hellcat, while also helping to mitigate the “body burn” common on all Funny Cars due to the close positioning of the exhaust headers.

* “The location of the burst panel on the hood has also been reworked. The panel is now centered over the top of the engine to more efficiently release energy and pressure in the event of engine issues, a common occurrence in race cars that are pushed to the razor’s edge of performance.”

Since the R/T was first introduced into the Don Schumacher Racing corps, it has gone on to 50 wins, 42 runner-up finishes and 40 No. 1 qualifiers in NHRA national events and one NHRA Funny Car World Championship (Ron Capps, 2016).

The new Charger SRT Hellcat, which can exceed 330-plus mph and covers 1,000 feet in under four seconds, is the drag strip version of the supercharged, 707-horsepower production Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, the quickest, fastest and most powerful sedan in the world.

While Hagan will drive the first Hellcat, his other three Dodge-powered DSR teammates – Capps, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. – will soon take delivery of their own versions of the car over the remaining 11 races of the 2018 season.

One day after winning two weeks ago at Norwalk, Ohio, Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables put the new Hellcat through its paces with several test runs. The results were so strong that it was decided to debut the car at Denver and run all qualifying and elimination rounds with it.

“We made four good, solid runs in testing at Norwalk,” said Hagan. “We put the body through a lot of different things and were really, really pleased with it.

“I really think it’s going to translate over to performance on the race track, and hopefully more win lights in the future.”

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