John Church and his JDC-Miller Motorsport team have never shied away from challenge. When DPi and LMP2 were running as a single class in 2017-18, the team brought its ORECA LMP2 car to go up against the factory DPi teams and punched well above its weight, even winning the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen in 2018. Four years later, the team is preparing to take on factory GTP powerhouses as the only customer team for Porsche’s 963 LMDh car.
“It’s very similar to 2017 when we put the ORECA P2 car against the DPi manufacturers when we were all running as one class,” explains Church, the managing partner of the team he owns with John Miller. “I’ve always said, personally, I come to the track to compete, and if we’re going to get beat, you want to get beat by the best. And if you’re going to beat them, you want to beat the best. The win here in 2018, that was pretty significant, because we’d beat all the factory teams on that day. Everybody has their day. You’ve got to keep digging, being a customer team; there’s no complacency. You have to work hard every day.”
In 2023, JDC-Miller, which currently fields the No. 5 Cadillac DPi for regular drivers Tristan Vautier and Richard Westbrook, will be the only customer team in the GTP field full of factory-supported efforts from Acura, BMW and Cadillac, not to mention Porsche’s factory team, Penske Motorsports. None of the other manufacturers entering GTP with LMDh-spec cars have indicated the ability or desire to supply customer cars from the beginning.
“At some point we talked to everybody. And there was one clear option, that in my mind was the only option, so that’s what led us here,” Church says of exploring possibilities to remain in the top category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“We’ve been discussing this for some time — calls and video calls and whatnot. I couldn’t be happier for our team, and I certainly want to thank Volker [Volker Holzmeyer, President and CEO of Porsche Motorsport North America] for all of his hard work and help in putting this together. I want to thank my partner, John Miller, for his continued support and guidance. We’re here because I believe in our program and we want to continue competing in IMSA at the highest level.”
Of course, customer racing has long been part of Porsche’s ethos, even when building minimum numbers of cars to meet homologation requirements hasn’t been mandated. But this is a much higher level than a 911 GT3R. The 963 is a $2.9 million car, but that comes with a lot of support.
“As long as the customer is running, our service is always included,” says Holzmeyer, who notes he sees four or five 963s each in IMSA and WEC as the sweet spot. “We’ll have spare parts on site, we will have an engineering truck on site with five, six, seven engineers. We will figure out with the teams what they think is needed. The service is always there, and it’s always done for free. That’s the way Porsche approaches it because it’s the way we can guarantee the highest level of quality.”
As for what JDC-Miller’s program will look like – or even when it will begin, since Holzmeyer admits there’s a distinct possibility the first customer car may not be ready for the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona in January – Church can’t say for sure, but hopes it looks similar to what it is now. The plan is to retain key personnel, including drivers, for the program, with perhaps some addition to deal with the hybrid systems.
Church also says that if the car isn’t ready for Daytona, the team may adjust the way it approaches the 2023 season, putting much more focus on learning and development in reparation for a full assault on the championship in 2024. Either way, he’s excited for what’s coming.
“I think it looks great,” he declares. “I think the naming of the car as the 963 is significant. This is obviously a huge push by Porsche to make this a significant era for motorsports and for the company. And for us to be a part of it, I think is phenomenal.”