The JDC-Miller Porsche 963. [Photo by Jack Webster]

The JDC-Miller Porsche 963. [Photo by Jack Webster]

by Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

We have known Mike Rockenfeller since his early days racing sports cars. He has had quite a career, winning Le Mans twice (once in the GT class in 2005 and once overall for Audi in 2010). In addition to his Le Mans success, Rocky, as he is known to everyone in racing, also won the Rolex 24 in 2010 at Daytona driving a Porsche Riley for Action Express Racing. He was also FIA GT2 Champion in 2005, 24 Hours of Nürburgring winner in 2006, 24 Hours of Spa winner in 2005 and DTM Champion in 2013. Also throw in a stint as a factory Corvette driver for GM. Quite a career, but Rocky is not nearly finished. Ever expanding his racing interests, in 2022 he drove in two NASCAR races – at Charlotte and Watkins Glen. He became instrumental in the NASCAR Garage 56 entry at Le Mans in 2023 – doing tons of testing and piloting the car at Le Mans along with NASCAR Legend Jimmy Johnson and Formula One World Champion Jensen Button.

Mike Rockenfeller certainly shows no signs of slowing down his racing career, and after that outstanding run at Le Mans, he has joined the IMSA GTP ranks piloting the brand-new JDC-Miller Motorsports Porsche 963. In addition those drives in IMSA, he continues to pilot NASCAR hardware, running for Jimmy Johnson’s Legacy Motor Club at Indy (where he finished 24th in this weekend’s race) and will pilot the car again at the upcoming race at Watkins Glen.

We caught up with a very busy Rocky in the paddock at Road America, where he would guide the new privateer Porsche 963 to a fifth-place finish overall in the GTP class.

“In racing, sometimes it’s a rollercoaster. I’ve been fortunate for many years to be linked to two great, three great brands, actually. Porsche early in my career. Then I moved to Audi for 15 years after that, and then in parallel I was racing with Corvette for the long races for four years. So, I was always very happy and I appreciated it.”

Of course, in motor racing things can change, and often quite rapidly. Audi ended their factory racing program, Porsche went with a youth movement for their LMP cars and Rocky suddenly found himself looking for gainful employment as a driver.

“Audi pretty much turned everything down – except for starting up their Formula One project so here I am, looking right and left for opportunities and seeing other guys getting the drives – and for sure it made me a little sad and worried. Luckily Garage 56 happened, which was amazing. In terms of a team, working with them was probably the best I have ever worked with. I enjoyed myself, obviously with the surroundings, with the teammates I had. The whole experience was great.”

And now it is time to get into the JDC-Miller Porsche 963 and compete with the likes of Penske Porsche Racing along with factory teams from Acura, BMW and Cadillac. JDC being a privateer and getting their car late, makes the task of getting the new car up to speed quite challenging – a challenge that Rocky welcomes.

“You have to be realistic with the expectations. The car is super sensitive, very complex – hard to find the right window. So, we are not there yet, but why should we? I mean, we just do a few races now, one test now, but all the others have a lot of experience. So anyway, it’s a tight field. It’s great to be back in IMSA full time. I like the team a lot. You know, the car is cool, good fun.”

I’ve been around 20, 22 years or something now I am racing at 39, so I feel young and motivated in every way. On the other hand, I’m not 20 anymore, so yeah, the funny thing is in racing, you know, one year you have offers from three different manufacturers and the next you have nothing. And people forget about you. So that’s something I had to learn. I enjoy every moment because I know it can all be over very soon.”

We who have watched Mike Rockenfeller go from success to success throughout his career don’t see that great career slowing down anytime soon. There is too much to still do, to many things left to accomplish.

Here’s to Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV and beyond.

See you at the races.

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