Just like Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button (and Pastor Maldonado, of course), Montoya is making his debut in the Le Mans 24 Hours this year. Unlike any of those guys, however, he actually has a shot of completing the fabled Triple Crown of Motorsport – although given that he’s racing in LMP2, it’s highly unlikely.
He finished third in an IMSA race on Saturday and then flew to Le Mans overnight for the test day. But despite what must be a little bit of jet lag, he very much enjoyed his first experience of the circuit outside of a simulator.
Some drivers have moaned about how the addition of extra run-off area at the Porsche Curves has spoiled the character of the circuit somewhat, but Montoya still enjoyed them (and other fast corners), telling Motorsport.com :
“Honestly I had no idea how good or how cool it was going to be. I really enjoyed it. I really didn’t know what to expect so I was pretty open-minded about it.
“The fast corners are a lot of fun here because they’re proper fast corners. If you get it wrong, that’s gonna hurt. You don’t see any of the F1 circuits like this. You go into Porsche Curves in fifth gear and you hope it sticks. It’s the kind of corners that when you go in you kind of unplug your brain and go for it. When you get them right it’s like ‘woah!’”
Montoya also mentioned how difficult it was to push hard, both because of traffic and the nature of the circuit:
“I kept getting quicker today and at the end of the day I had three or four laps where I could have been a second and a half or two seconds quicker. I just kept getting traffic. Here it’s so inviting to drive ten-tenths but it’s so inviting to get it completely wrong. Like Indianapolis [the corner], honestly I’ve been lucky not to have gone off there today. But that’s what makes it fun.”
It’s always cool to hear about a racing driver actually having fun, although given his desire for success, Montoya will probably be hoping that the pace of his United Autosports Ligier picks up a bit beyond the time set at the test day – only 14th fastest in class, six seconds off the best time.
Then again, this is Le Mans – ouright pace isn’t everything and any car could easily end up at the top of its class. Or, as we saw last year, maybe even in the battle for outright victory…
All images (c) United Autosports/Creative Commons