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IMSA Petit Le Mans Road Atlanta

Button happy with “stressful, chaotic, hectic” IMSA GTP debut

Jenson Button says his first experience of IMSA GTP competition at Petit Le Mans was “stressful, chaotic, hectic” but feels content as he considers a full-time racing return next year.

#5 JDC Miller MotorSports Porsche 963: Tijmen van der Helm, Mike Rockenfeller, Jenson Button

Button made his series debut in a Porsche 963 as the extra driver in JDC-Miller MotorSports’ line up at Road Atlanta, and finished fifth alongside Mike Rockenfeller – his Garage 56 Le Mans team-mate – and youngster Tijmen van der Helm.

The 2009 F1 world champion says he has “options” to race in IMSA next season – both a full season or enduros only – or a World Endurance Championship campaign, potentially in Jota’s Porsche 963 program which has also been linked to fellow ex-F1 stars Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica.

Speaking to NBC after his double stint in the season-closing race, Button said he enjoyed the GTP experience but was kept busy in the hybrid-assisted LMDh car by the bumper 54-car entry.

“Happy I got out in one piece!” he quipped. “No, it was good fun… Stressful, chaotic, hectic and pretty physical on the hands as well.

“The steering wheel suddenly got heavy, not sure why that is. My first run, I had new tires on and it felt great, I could race with people, I had a go at getting past Josef Newgarden [in the factory Penske-run 963] and then the second run was on old tires. Wow, that was hard!

“You’ve got so many things on the steering wheel to change and adjust, with TC lat and TC straight ahead, and then there’s all the migration under braking and there’s so much, I was changing everything to try and look after one end of the car and then I’d start locking-up that end, so then I look after the other end. I was going round in circles with all the switches!

“The tire deg was a bit bigger than I’d hoped but the first stint on the tires I felt happy considering it was the first time I’d been in the car and I’d never done more than 10 laps.

“It was nice to race out there with a few people.”

#31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac V-LMDh Cadillac V- LMDh: Pipo Derani, Alexander Sims, Jack Aitken, #5 JDC Miller MotorSports Porsche 963: Tijmen van der Helm, Mike Rockenfeller, Jenson Button, #66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3: Sheena Monk, Katherine Legge, Marc Miller

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

#31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac V-LMDh Cadillac V- LMDh: Pipo Derani, Alexander Sims, Jack Aitken, #5 JDC Miller MotorSports Porsche 963: Tijmen van der Helm, Mike Rockenfeller, Jenson Button, #66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3: Sheena Monk, Katherine Legge, Marc Miller

It was also Button’s first ever race at Road Atlanta, the sweeping 2.5-mile road course that plays host to the annual 10-hour IMSA season-ending event.

“The track’s not too bad when you’re on your own – which you never are!” said Button. “Turn 1 is really tricky, and with the tailwind you turn-in in fifth gear and get a massive snap [of oversteer] halfway through. You try it in fourth and you get more of a locked diff, it’s easier but it’s slower and it’s revving a lot.

“Then you go through the Esses, into Turn 2, and everything just wants to lock up, fronts and rears, because you’re very light on downforce at that point. But the Esses is awesome fun, and then it bottoms out, and you’re heavy again.

“Trying to judge traffic, it’s been a long time for me since I had to do that, and I think that went well, I didn’t lose any places in traffic – I almost gained one. I had a couple of scary moments, through the middle of two cars, but it all-in-all it was good.”

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