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Montoya “Surprised” by Le Mans Challenge

Juan Pablo Montoya impressed with Le Mans circuit after turning maiden laps at Test Day…

Photo: United Autosports

Juan Pablo Montoya says he was “surprised” at the challenge posed by the Le Mans circuit after completing his first laps of the 8.5-mile course during Sunday’s official Test Day.

The Colombian flew overnight from Detroit, where he finished third in Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race for Acura Team Penske, to be with the United Autosports squad in France.

Montoya registered 35 laps behind the wheel of the No. 32 Ligier JS P217 Gibson, which he shared with Hugo de Sadeleer and Will Owen, posting the 14th-best time in class.

“I was actually surprised how good it is and how challenging it is,” Montoya said when asked by Sportscar365 during a roundtable discussion if Le Mans had lived up to his expectations.

“It’s fun. It’s not easy because there are so many bumps and little tricks but when you do it enough times – once you know where the bumps are and where to place the car – it gets a little bit easier.”

Montoya was impressed by the high-speed corners, notably Tertre Rouge, Indianapolis and the Porsche Curves, saying those sections presented the toughest challenge.

“When I’m at Daytona I qualify every lap I’m in the car, all the time,” he continued.

“Here you can’t. It’s so inviting to drive ten-tenths, but it’s so inviting to get it completely wrong, like at Indianapolis.

“Honestly, I was lucky not to have gone off there. That [initial] right-hander is so inviting to just go deeper and deeper.”

The 42-year-old said he felt reasonably well acquainted with the circuit, which he has previously lapped in simulator sessions at Le Mans and Miami.

He was also impressed by the United Autosports operation, although noted having difficulty adjusting to the right-hand drive Ligier after racing the left-hand drive Acura ARX-05 DPi the day before.

“It’s really good – it’s well-organized,” said Montoya. “I was really surprised at all this. They’re really good guys and really good mechanics.

“It’s very different because most of the engineers come from the factory of the cars. That was very different. I’m used to working with an engineer that is just from the team.

“I had no idea how good it was going to be. I really enjoyed it.”

Montoya Satisfied With Early Numbers

In terms of pace, the three-time Rolex 24 at Daytona winner was “pretty happy” with his 3:32.363 lap, but said there were some points for improvement to work on during race week.

“At the end of the day, I had three or four laps where I could be a second and a half or two seconds quicker than I was running, but I just kept getting traffic,” he explained.

“I was pretty happy actually. I was picking up maybe 1.2 or 1.3 seconds from just past the second chicane to the line. So I felt good.

“I think at Indianapolis I’ve still got a bit of time, like learning the timing of the braking and turning.

“We’ve got a lot of issues on the braking, a lot of rear locking. I do a bit of overlap to really prepare the brakes for the braking zones and my team-mates don’t, so it’s a little bit different – there’s a bit of a balance.

“They’re young and they do a good job. At the end of the day, the better they drive, the better I do as well, so it’s about putting the whole package [together].”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and various electric racing series.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Pierce

    June 4, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    Hoping Montoya doesn’t punt a GTE-Pro car off the road. Don’t think the French will take too kindly to his antics here.

    Also Fun fact the last time Montoya, Alonso, Fisichella, and Button shared a track was F1 2006

    • timsson

      June 4, 2018 at 9:02 pm

      The 2006 US Grand Prix, to be exact. You can add Giancarlo Fisichella to that list as well.

      • Travis McBee

        June 4, 2018 at 11:08 pm

        He said Fisichella did he not? Helps to read…

    • Blaneysellstrashbags@Ring24

      June 5, 2018 at 10:49 am

      I bet Montoya really dont care what the French think.

      • LARRY FERNDOCK

        June 6, 2018 at 10:38 pm

        I bet you have lousy grammar

  2. jeff

    June 4, 2018 at 7:44 pm

    LeMans doesn’t use jet dryers, do they??/

    • David Chaste

      June 5, 2018 at 1:20 am

      Montoya was a front runner in f1 and everywhere he has been. He’s as goid as any lemans winner. If lemans ran on an oval they too would use jet dryers.

      • Paul Heffelfinger

        June 6, 2018 at 8:42 pm

        Montoya will be just fine. The man can drive a race car.

    • Frank

      June 5, 2018 at 6:33 am

      Give it up already.

  3. Captain fun

    June 4, 2018 at 7:59 pm

    Interesting re. Overlap on brakes. Might be quick, but not the most efficient. Will make a difference over 24h, esp. If setup needs compromise.

  4. David Chaste

    June 4, 2018 at 8:34 pm

    Fast lineup. Hugo and will have silver ratings but they’re really as fast as anyone…just younger.

    United Autosport is a well funded and well ran operation but it’s a bit small compared to the scale of outfits Montoya is used to running for.

  5. NaBUru38

    June 5, 2018 at 11:59 am

    “Montoya was ‘pretty happy’ with his 3’32.3 lap”

    Damn those LMP2 cars are fast! The 2015 pole was 3’38.

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