Juan Pablo Montoya believes maximizing track time in this weekend’s WeatherTech 240 at Daytona will be crucial due to the compressed nature of the event as well as it being many drivers’ first time back in a race car in nearly five months.
Montoya and Acura Team Penske co-driver Dane Cameron head into Saturday’s two-hour and 40-minute race as defending IMSA DPi series champions, although face a number of unknowns, from track conditions and Michelin’s switch to its hard compound and also getting back up to speed in the Acura ARX-05.
While Cameron had a handful of laps at the wheel of an Acura NSX GT3 Evo during HPD’s GT3 Academy outing at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta last month, the decorated Colombian racer has already been thinking of ways to optimize the weekend.
WeatherTech Championship teams, which just had its testing ban lifted on Wednesday, will have a single 60-minute practice on Friday, followed by an additional hour on Saturday morning prior to qualifying.
“As everybody’s been saying it’s been a long time out of the car and it’s going be interesting because we don’t get any real time on the car,” Montoya said.
“We’re going to have two sessions, two drivers. I was [thinking], can we go without doing an installation lap?
“By the time you come back from an installation lap they take the engine cover off and look at everything. By the time they’re done, you’ve lost ten minutes of the session already.
“It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be a very green race track and it’s going to make it tough.
“I think from from Friday you’re gonna freak out like, ‘Oh my God, how are we going to do this?’ But by the time we make it to the race, I think it’s going to be a lot better.
“I’m really excited to get back in the car and really excited to get the season rolling. But Daytona is going to be hard for us.”
Ricky Taylor, meanwhile, confirmed that the Nos. 6 and 7 Acura DPis will be “splitting the plan” in practice in order to maximize track time and setup options.
The strategy, often used on multi-car teams, could play into the hands of Penske as well as the Multimatic-run Mazda operation in the DPi class this weekend.
“In terms of Team Penske whether it’s any program, NASCAR, IndyCar, they always have multiple cars and use it to their advantage and work really well together,” Taylor explained.
“It’s no different with Acura Team Penske with the 6 and 7 [cars].
“For Daytona, as Juan said, it’s such a compact schedule. The drivers are going to have to take some time to get up to speed and get used to it again.
“We have split the plans and will try to tackle it as a team.
“For all three years of the program so far, it’s been the two [cars] working together and lots of back and forth.”
Penske Hopeful of Positive BoP Change
Montoya is hopeful that IMSA’s Balance of Performance adjustment to the Acura DPis will help put them in contention, particularly over a full stint.
IMSA has given the cars roughly a 7-horsepower increase at top-end RPM levels, in the only performance-related change in DPi for this weekend.
“Normally IMSA tries to do the best to get a a good BoP,” Montoya said.
“We felt in the 24 hours [of Daytona] we were a little behind where we need to be.
“Our one-lap pace [was] very good but our normal pace and fuel mileage of the car, it’s always felt like we’re a little behind the other cars.
“Hopefully that got corrected for this race and we’ll see where we stand.”