Montoya: A faster re-acclimation to Indy 500 than expected


It’s interesting that Juan Pablo Montoya’s return to the Indianapolis 500 hasn’t, yet, been a major story of the first week of practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ marquee race.

His teammates under the Team Penske umbrella have been. Will Power’s been quick, and also offered his thoughts on double points for the 500-mile races and additional points for qualifying. Helio Castroneves is rocking a throwback Pennzoil paint scheme and has also topped the time sheets; at the moment, his 227-plus mph lap from Thursday is the fastest of the week.

Yet Montoya, who is back at IMS going the normal oval direction for the Indianapolis 500 after spending time racing at IMS in either the Brickyard 400, U.S. Grand Prix or GRAND-AM Rolex Series race the last 14 years, was pleased and surprised with how quickly he got back up to speed here on the oval, in an IndyCar.

“I’ll tell you the truth, I was really surprised when I came on Sunday,” Montoya said during a Friday morning press conference. “I went out and I said, ‘I’m going to take my time. Full throttle, lifted on three and four, second lap, third lap, fourth lap, I’m good.’ It was nice.”

Through Thursday’s running, Montoya completed 279 laps and had the 11th best speed of 225.134 mph in the No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet for Penske Motorsports.

He’s already thrilled with how fast the entire Penske organization has got their heads wrapped around the setup on the cars.

“One of the cool things about being with Team Penske, they do such a good job with the cars,” he said. “The experience here is so good. They really know what they’re doing. It makes it so easy for us, it really does.

“I mean, when you’re trying, like yesterday we were starting to trim the car out in case it rained today, okay, I have a little bit of understeer, they change it.  They really know how much to change the car, to adjust the car.  It makes it fun.”

Montoya has a legitimate shot at being in the fastest nine qualifiers on Saturday, to then have a run for the pole on Sunday. But clearly he’s back, as he helps the team in search of Roger Penske’s 16th Indianapolis 500 victory, and first since 2009 (Castroneves).

Bird, Stanaway and Evans receive LMP1 rookie test invites

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 28:  English driver Sam Bird of Virgin Racing during first practice on the second day of the 2015 FIA Formula E Visa London ePrix Championship at Battersea Park Track on June 28, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
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Sam Bird, Richie Stanaway and Mitch Evans have been invited to the end-of-season LMP1 rookie test in Bahrain following impressive outings in the FIA World Endurance Championship this season.

As part of the series’ drive to nurture and develop young talent, a single day of testing is scheduled at the Bahrain International Circuit one day after the 2015 WEC season ends, and will be attended by Audi, Toyota and Porsche.

In a statement issued by the WEC, it was confirmed that Bird, Stanaway and Evans had received the invites for this year’s LMP1 rookie test after “having shown the best performance, determination and race skills during 2015.

“Each of the prototype manufacturers will test with at least one LMP1 car, and each of the drivers chosen will be given the opportunity to complete at least 30 laps with one manufacturer. The LMP1 manufacturers may also use the time on track to test additional drivers if they wish.”

Bird has enjoyed a successful 2015 season, winning races in both the WEC with LMP2 team G-Drive and in Formula E with Virgin Racing. The former Mercedes junior driver will test with Toyota in Bahrain.

Stanaway has also been mixing single-seater and endurance duties this year, racing in both GP2 and the WEC with Aston Martin Racing in GTE Pro. He will step up to test with Audi.

Despite only taking part in two WEC rounds this season, Evans has made enough of an impact to grab the attention of the series promoter and earn an invite to the rookie test. The New Zealander has been Mark Webber’s protege for some time, making it somewhat unsurprising that he will now test with Porsche alongside his mentor in Bahrain.

“This first rookie test is a fantastic opportunity for these three up-and-coming endurance drivers to test an LMP1 prototype, the most technologically advanced race cars in the world,” WEC CEO Gerard Neveu said.

“We looked in depth at drivers from within the world of endurance racing before making the selection, and believe that Sam Bird, Mitch Evans and Richie Stanaway fully deserved the opportunity to demonstrate their talent and potential.

“This rookie test will give drivers an added bonus to their season, and forms an important element in the progressive career path available within the endurance family.”

The rookie test takes place on November 22, one day after the end of the WEC season.

Sainz airlifted to hospital following practice crash

xxxx during final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on October 10, 2015 in Sochi, Russia.
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Carlos Sainz Jr. has been airlifted to hospital after a big crash during the final free practice session for the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday morning.

Under braking at turn 13, Sainz lost the backend of his Toro Rosso car, causing him to hit the left-hand wall before slamming into the TecPro barrier at the end of the run-off area.

The session was immediately red flagged as medical crews tended to Sainz, taking 20 minutes to extricate him from the Toro Rosso car due to how it had pitched under the barrier.

FIA media delegate Matteo Bonciani told reporters: “The driver is conscious and is still in the process of being extricated. When we know something, we will let you know.”

After being extricated from the car, Sainz was taken away on a stretcher before being placed in an ambulance, giving a thumbs up to let fans know that he was okay. He is also reported to have been talking to doctors in the medical centre after the crash.

Sainz has now been airlifted to hospital for further checks, and is set to miss qualifying later today, with Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost telling BBC Sport: “To sit him in the car immediately seems a bit risky, but we will wait and see.”

Toro Rosso has now issued the following statement:

“Following Carlos Sainz’s accident during FP3 today in Sochi, the driver is perfectly conscious and was able to talk to the extrication team. Once out of the car he was taken to the circuit Medical Centre, where he underwent an initial assessment of his condition.

“He has now been taken by air ambulance to the Sochi Hospital 4. Investigations on the reasons for the accident will take place once the car is back in the team’s garage.

“Further information will be released by the team and the FIA to the media when it is available.”

Sainz sent out a tweet from hospital confirming that he was okay following the shunt, and is now working to get back onto the grid for tomorrow’s race.