Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Simpson: Second Again in Canada


Fresh from the excitement of Watkins Glen, where we led for the first time but ended up fighting for a close second, it was to be déjà vu in Canada!

Having dialed the car in well through the practice sessions, we topped the timing sheets at the end of the third session, confirming the direction we had taken and setting things up nicely for Misha Goikhberg to challenge for the pole in qualifying.

This is Misha’s home track and he was clearly on a mission! In the end, he put it on the front row, which, given the demands of this relatively short circuit and the traffic it creates, was a good place to be.

Transcontinental Challenge in BMW

I had enjoyed a good “warm-up” race in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge driving the No. 54 BMW with Michael Johnson the day before, where we battled the car up to the top 10 after a puncture on the first lap of qualifying put us out of the running.

I was then in a good position to get up to the sharp end for the first time this year. Fourth place and the third-fastest lap was the reward — and much deserved, it was. Michael and the team have worked hard all year for this sort of progress.

Second Consecutive Second

The following afternoon, Misha started the race and made a strong start. After driving the race of his life, he handed the car over to me in P1, having passed Ricky Taylor for the lead approaching the 50-lap mark!

Stephen Simpson in JDC-Miller ORECA in Canada IMSA weekend
Photo: LAT USA / JDC-Miller Motorsports

Once I got in, I had to get past the No. 10, which I was able to do, then I tried pulling a gap so we had some breathing room when it was time to make our next stop.

Compounding the Challenge

At this point, it was all looking ominously under control as I pulled out about eight seconds on the Cadillac, but some 10 laps later, the rain came and we had a deluge along the backstretch, which on the slicks was tricky!

This challenge was compounded by a radio problem we had developed in the car. It turned out that a chunk of rubber debris had taken out our radio antenna, leaving us with virtually no pit-to-car communications.

Nevertheless, we changed onto some wets during a full-course caution, while a number of competitors opted to remain on slicks, pray for some sunshine and tough it out. Often times, doing the opposite of what the leader does can be a good tactic and as it would turn out, that was exactly what happened.

Strategy Leads to Second Step of Podium

At the restart, I tried to pull out as much of a lead as possible, but I took one of the Tequila Patron ESM cars with me, as they too had gone for wets.

The Wayne Taylor Racing car must have had some very tricky laps until the track dried but as it did (quickly), it became clear that we were going to have to make another stop to get back on slicks.

This put us back to fourth. We needed a serious push to get us back in contention.

Some hard-fought passing moves and the WTR/Corvette incident certainly helped but despite catching right back up to the back of the Whelen Cadillac towards the end, I had to settle for second.

I think if the final full-course caution due to the Ligier crash had not happened, the returning rain could have resulted in a very chaotic end to the race!

So, two races in a row with second-place podium finishes. Despite our desire to make it to the top step, it has not been a bad couple weeks of work for the JDC-Miller Motorsports team and the guys at Justice Brothers, Hi-Tide Boat Lifts and Redline Oils!

Stephen Simpson
Stephen Simpson got his start racing karts and open-wheel cars in South Africa and now drives for JDC-Miller Motorsports in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.


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