DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – According to Canadian driver Misha Goikhberg, the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports ORECA LM P2 team in its first season of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype competition turned a corner with its second-place result in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen last Sunday.
“It’s a very good position to be in, to be genuinely disappointed with a second place,” Goikhberg said. “If somebody told us at the beginning of the year that we would be extremely heartbroken and disappointed because of a second-place finish, we would gladly take that.
“To see that kind of transformation is very good, but obviously, now that we’ve got the podium out of the way, the next tangible goal for us is to have an overall win.”
Goikhberg and co-driver Stephen Simpson will get their first chance to compete for the overall win this Sunday in the two-hour and 40-minute Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario. The lone WeatherTech Championship event north of the border will be televised live on FS1 at 12 p.m. ET, with live IMSA Radio coverage also available on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and on SiriusXM Radio.
In Goikhberg’s mind, this weekend’s race couldn’t happen at a better venue. He makes his home in Toronto, and has plenty of experience on the ultra-fast, 2.459-mile road course that once hosted the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix.
“The very interesting thing about Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is that it’s such a cool, fast venue,” he says. “Having driven there so many times, I’m sort of used to it in a way. I know that, if you don’t go there for a while, you’re very excited to come back.”
Count Simpson among those excited to come back, especially given the events of last Sunday. In a thrilling battle with Joao Barbosa in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R, Simpson made a bold move to take the lead on a restart with just over 20 minutes left in the race and was looking to score a maiden Prototype class win for himself, Goikhberg and the team’s endurance co-driver, Chris Miller.
Then, with less than 10 minutes remaining, Simpson lost momentum when he caught slower traffic at the most inopportune time. That enabled Barbosa to retake the lead and the first victory of the season for the No. 5 Cadillac team and co-drivers Christian Fittipaldi and Filipe Albuquerque.
“I don’t want to make any excuses,” Simpson said after the race. “I just caught traffic at the wrong times, really. That’s what it came down to. I was determined to make a good restart and I really wanted to send this No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports car to victory lane for these guys. I wanted to do that badly, but fortunately we only have seven days to wait before the next one.”
It’d be easy to say the team now is carrying momentum. Not so fast, says, Goikhberg.
“You’ve got to have the mindset that you’ve got to execute and deliver on that specific weekend,” he said. “As much as we definitely have a bit of momentum, I’m sure for everybody it’s a new weekend and a chance to rebuild and go for it. Maybe a little bit, but we still have work to do once we get there.”
Simpson clearly opened some eyes last weekend at Watkins Glen. The South African took the fight right to Barbosa – a two-time WeatherTech Championship Prototype champion – creating a buzz around himself and the team that clearly will last into this weekend.
“He did a great job,” Goikhberg said. “I mean, I think we all knew how good he really is, but after a performance like that, I think everybody else can kind of see that as well.”
Simpson credits the JDC-Miller Motorsports team. While this is its first year in the WeatherTech Championship Prototype class, the team previously competed for several years in the Prototype Challenge class, fields a BMW for Simpson and paraplegic co-driver Michael Johnson in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, and maintains a strong presence in the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda series.
“I think one of the keys to the success of this team, not just now, but over the last 15-20 years, is down to (team owner) John Church and the team of people that he has together,” Simpson says. “The majority of people that you see working on the car and in the team now have been with the team for many, many, many years. Really, I give a lot of credit to John.
“All of us have been together for a long time. All of our goals and expectations are very much in check. As I’ve said before and as we showed (at Watkins Glen), we’re not here to make up the numbers.
“We are serious. We want to win races and we want to be in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for many years to come.”
Practice for the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix gets underway Friday with a pair of WeatherTech Championship sessions. Saturday’s schedule includes WeatherTech Championship qualifying from 12:05 to 1:35 p.m. ET, followed by a two-hour Continental Tire Challenge race starting at 2:50 p.m. ET.
The IMSA Prototype Challenge also has a pair of 45-minute races on the schedule this weekend, at 5:30 p.m. ET Saturday and 9:30 a.m. Sunday. Both of those races, as well as the Continental Tire Challenge race and WeatherTech Championship qualifying will be streamed live on IMSA.com.
Tickets for the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix are available at CanadianTireMotorsportPark.com.