Why the first IMSA GTP privateer is an important milestone

By J.A. Ackley
May 15, 2023 | Porsche, Laguna Seca, GTP, Porsche 963, Motul Course de Monterey Powered by Hyundai N, 963, JDC-Miller MotorSports

Photography Courtesy Courtesy Porsche Cars North America

The first privateer IMSA GTP made its competition debut this past weekend: A Porsche 963 fielded by JDC-Miller MotorSports, with drivers Mike Rockenfeller and Tijmen van der Helm at the wheel. Why does that matter? We asked IMSA president John Doonan that very question.

From the day that Bill France and John Bishop founded IMSA, it was founded on the ideal that people could come racing at whatever level that matched their interest and investment level,” said Doonan. “Customer racing opportunities, whether it’s in GT or LMP2 or now GTP, are foundational to our original values and to a sustainable future. Sustainable because these customers are passionate, they’re investing their own discretionary income, bringing their own partners to be part of the show.

"In the heydays of IMSA, when GTP racing had its biggest car counts, in the mid-’80s on to the mid-’90s, there were a significant number of customer cars. For us, [customer cars are] a statement of stability of the sport and a statement of stability for fans to see the variety, where an independent customer can go head-to-head with the factories.”

Porsche is known for its customer programs throughout motorsports–and now that includes GTP.

It’s in our DNA to have customers,” said Urs Kuratle, Director Factory Racing LMDh, Porsche Motorsport. “When we decided to go into the LMDh program, we decided to have customers. It’s a proud moment for us [to have a customer car in GTP].”

However, the genesis of this customer program is a tad different from Porsche’s previous ones.

Usually, you race one year with a works team, and then you have all the experience yourself, all the spare parts, all the procedures in place and then you start selling it,” Kuratle said. “The brave thing of our program is that we’re doing it in the first year. We are still learning about the car. So, you have to transfer that information right away to the customer team. That makes it more complicated.”

However, this situation comes with advantages. Every car added to the Porsche fleet in GTP competition, whether a works team or a customer team, is another opportunity to acquire data for a car with still relatively limited track time.

With two works cars and a customer car, we’re learning a lot,” said Kuratle. “Every mile counts. Every lap counts.”

John Miller, a partner of JDC-Miller MotorSports, took a very pragmatic approach to the Motul Course de Monterey Powered by Hyundai N weekend.

Run. Finish,” Miller said of the team’s goals. “We’re realistic about trying to be competitive. We’ve had the car for 10 days. Our goal here is to continue to learn it, get some laps behind us, so we can work harder on competitiveness rather than reliability.”

Mission accomplished.

The JDC-Miller MotorSports team finished seventh, on the lead lap, with their best lap about a second off from the best lap of the winners, Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande, in the Cadillac Racing entry.

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ConiglioRampante New Reader
5/16/23 9:16 a.m.

All in all, it was a very good debut for a team that only had the car for 10 days.  The future of the GTP class is promising.

Matt B (fs)
Matt B (fs) UltraDork
5/16/23 10:35 a.m.

Yeah to only be a second off the best lap of the winning team is "not bad" on your first outing.

J.A. Ackley
J.A. Ackley Senior Editor
5/16/23 11:35 a.m.

Indeed. They were steadily gaining speed over the course of the day. A lot of their "issues," if you want to call them that, were from just being a new team. For example, understanding what the tires will do over the course of a run. The car was the one thing that was solid.

5/16/23 9:43 p.m.

Great to see such a young guy emerge in GTP. I read just 19.years old. Looked him up, world champion in go-kart. Had a difficult year in F3 and switched to prototypes last year. Great pace, 4th in Le Mans. Matched Rocky, with only 50 minutes of practice with new car and new track. Bring in some more new young guys.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/17/23 9:29 a.m.

And, FWIW, from what I hear, the backend of the new GTP cars is wicked complicated. To come in and be only a second off the pace sounds pretty impressive.

Looking forward to more customer teams. It’s how Porsche filled the GTP field back in the day. 

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