Veteran sportscar star Mike Rockenfeller and his teenaged team-mate Tijmen van der Helm steered the 963 to seventh in the IMSA SportsCar Championship’s fourth round, having been forced to miss the opening three races due to supply chain issues that delayed the build of Porsche’s customer chassis.
Rockenfeller finished the race directly behind the Daytona 24 Hours-winning Meyer Shank Racing Acura and the first of the BMW Hybrid V8s in the 102-lap race. The team only received its car shortly before the Laguna race weekend, following a shakedown at Porsche Motorsport’s Weissach test track by factory driver Matt Campbell.
“For the very first time in a car like this, I think we did pretty good,” Rockenfeller told Motorsport.com. “The car was tricky to drive, everybody was struggling with grip, but we showed up with zero experience!
“We know we are missing ultimate pace and, for me, that’s a balance issue and understanding the braking – I didn’t feel in control 100 percent. P7 is never what you want, you want to fight for the podium, but let’s be honest, we finished the race with no scratches on the car and we get into a lot of fights out there with our opponents.
“It seemed that we struggled on the new tire at the start of the stint, and towards the end I could manage the car better, even though it wasn’t easy with the brake bias. There are like 500 adjustments in these cars and you need a half-decent routine!
“But, all in all, I think we did a half-decent race, and we can be proud as JDC. We’re only a small team, so it’s not like we go testing, we have to learn this car race by race.”
#5: JDC Miller MotorSports, Porsche 963, GTP: Tijmen van der Helm, Mike Rockenfeller, #60: Meyer Shank Racing W/Curb-Agajanian, Acura ARX-06, GTP: Colin Braun, Tom Blomqvist
Photo by: Richard Dole / Motorsport Images
His co-driver van der Helm, who was making his first start at the top level of sportscar racing after piloting LMP2 machinery in the European Le Mans Series, both qualified and started the car before handing over to Rockenfeller.
“It went better than expected,” said van der Helm. “So much to learn, so much still to learn. But I think Mike and I did a pretty good job along with the team, and I think we should be happy about the job we did this weekend and I think we can look forward to all the other races.
“This was a learning experience, a kind of practice race, and I think it went well enough to look forward to Watkins Glen now. Our goal here was simply to finish, and just see where we finished, so I think we should be happy with P7.
“Now we can spend some time behind the laptop, and work on getting our pace towards the other cars.”