Juan Pablo Montoya said extending their DPi points lead heading into next month’s season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans has come as a “a big relief” for he and Acura Team Penske co-driver Dane Cameron.
The duo claimed a dominant win in the Monterey Sports Car Championship powered by McLaren, taking the No. 6 Acura ARX-05 to its third victory of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
Now armed with a 12-point lead over Whelen Engineering Racing’s Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr, who finished third on Sunday, Montoya and Cameron will need to score an eighth place finish or higher in DPi to be crowned champions at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
“Going into Petit with a 12-point advantage, it’s a big relief,” Montoya said. “We could not have asked for anything better. We just need to make sure we execute there.
“We just need to keep doing what we’re doing. We’ve been running really smart races and making good decisions.
“I think from the engineering side, we keep getting better.
“I think Dane and myself, we really understand what we want out of the car. I think that’s one of the reasons why we’re so strong in the races.”
Montoya and Cameron earned their seventh consecutive podium finish on Sunday, in a race the 30-year-old said was a challenge despite appearing to have a controlling run from the start.
“With the tire life we had to do there and the fuel savings we had to do, we still feel like we’re upside down on the fuel capacity to our competitors,” Cameron told Sportscar365
“There was quite a lot of fuel savings so it was really difficult to do the numbers that you needed to do and make the fuel, especially in traffic here.
“Typically there’s yellows at Laguna so you’re kind of always waiting for those, so you’re trying to balance how hard you’re pushing and trying to make sure you’re looking after your tires for an inevitable restart at some point as well.”
The yellow didn’t come, which saw a flat-out two-hour and 40-minute contest and Acura Team Penske’s first 1-2 finish of the season.
Entering the weekend with a seven-point advantage over Derani and Nasr, Cameron said they were focused on finishing ahead of the Action Express duo in order to pad their points lead.
“For sure we wanted to beat the 31 but if there was an opportunity to win and get those extra points and really build that buffer, it was really what we wanted to do,” he said.
“It couldn’t have gone a whole lot better today.
“So to leave with a 12 [point lead] is huge. We’re pretty happy with that. Now we just have to have a nice, clean tidy Petit Le Mans and execute there.
“We’d love to win that race. Juan and I haven’t won it. For me that’s one I would really like to win.
“But at least now we’re in a position where we don’t have to put ourselves in bad places throughout the race because a championship comes first.”
Derani Seeing Title Chances “Slip Away”
While pleased to keep their championship hopes mathematically alive with a podium finish on Sunday, Derani admitted it’s challenging to see he and Nasr’s chances “slip away little by little”.
The Brazilian made a late-race charge to finish third, getting by the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R of Renger van der Zande after an initial clash.
It marked Derani and Nasr’s first podium finish since Detroit in June.
“We’ll take the championship fight into the last race, which is good,” Derani told Sportscar365.
“Obviously it’s great to be back on the podium but unfortunately behind the 6 car again. Seeing the championship slip away little by little is not easy.
“I think we have to be proud of the job we did today. It wasn’t an easy race. We started fifth and dropped to sixth and had to fight our way back
“It was a tough race on fuel, a tough race on track with battles and some dirty drives from some of the other competitors pushing me to the wall.
“But we made it to the podium. The team should be proud of the job that we’ve done.”