Juan Pablo Montoya admitted he never thought it would have taken a year-and-a-half to claim his first win with Acura Team Penske, in what’s been a long-time coming for the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner.
Montoya and co-driver Dane Cameron broke through to claim their maiden DPi victory in Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio, following a flawless run in their Acura ARX-05.
It came in a hard-fought fourth round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship that nearly ran caution-free and saw Montoya overcome challenges from the No. 77 Team Joest Mazda RT24-P of Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez.
While having been in position for victory before, the Colombian said all of the pieces were in place to seal the deal on Sunday.
“I think we just executed well,” Montoya said. “We made a lot of mistakes before. We’ve been very unlucky. We had mechanical issues and stuff.
“It was stupid things that had happened. I think we made not-great calls on strategy before.
“Last year we had a lot of pace and could just never get [the win]. We finished second and third a lot of times.
“But to get the first win… if you would have told me when we made the deal that it would take a year-and-a-half to win my first race, I would have been like, ‘No way.’
“It’s nice to finally get it and hopefully we can get some more.”
Traffic played a decisive factor in the two-hour and 40-minute race, which saw eight lead changes.
While co-driver Cameron put the No. 6 Acura DPi took over the lead on Lap 7, Montoya lost the position to Jarvis in the second hour through traffic although managed to retake the spot following the second round of pit stops.
“It’s tough because if you push really, really hard, you can go quicker,” Montoya said.
“And if you go quicker, you open up a bit of a gap but then you catch the traffic in the wrong place and the seven-second gap becomes a two-second gap.
“I got to the point of just running a decent pace and waited to see what happens and how the traffic comes.
“I could match what they were doing, no problem. It was good. I felt like I was doing a really good job on old tires.
“Even the out-laps were very strong and I think that made a big difference.”
With the breakthrough win, Montoya and Cameron have vaulted to fourth in the DPi title race, eight points behind points leaders Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani of Whelen Engineering Racing.
Montoya said he’s optimistic on being able to fight for additional wins this season.
“There are going to be a few races and race tracks that suit our car like Mid-Ohio that are coming up and should be strong for us and be able to get some good results,” he said.
“I think the key here is consistency. We need to try and avoid mistakes and first-lap crashes and stuff like that.
“Sometimes you’re better off giving up a place because it becomes irrelevant later in the race.
“You just have to run a smart day and see what happens.”