Juan Pablo Montoya

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Montoya refreshed for full year with Penske, Acura after ‘weird’ 2017

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If the worst kept secret in racing the last several months was that Team Penske was running a sports car program with Acura, the second worst kept secret was that Juan Pablo Montoya would be one of its drivers.

With today’s announcement however, the 41-year-old Colombian can now officially talk about his new full-time ride.

Montoya’s been renowned for his career versatility and winning in IndyCar, NASCAR and Formula 1. And now, how he’ll be back in action after an abnormal 2017 season where he’s tested two generations of IndyCars, will have tested two entirely different types of sports cars, raced an IndyCar twice for Team Penske in May at Indianapolis, won the Race of Champions in January, and spent some quality time karting in Europe with son Sebastian, who is beginning to blossom on that front.

It all adds up to a wild year of Juan Pablo that has been part slow, part flat out depending on the month.

“It’s been weird because at the beginning of the year, it was actually really calm until Indy,” Montoya said. “We had a little testing here or there, but it wasn’t much.

“Then two months with Indy and then kart racing in Europe. Since then it’s been non‑stop. I think the next three, four months are going to be non‑stop.

“But I don’t mind that. I really don’t mind. Doing the testing for the IndyCar has been a lot of fun for the ’18 IndyCar.  There’s no pressure. Just go there, you know, drive the wheels out of it with no compromise. That makes it fun.”

Montoya’s three days of testing in that car at Indianapolis, Mid-Ohio and Iowa have been an excellent case study in “JPM unleashed.”

Without the restrictions, as noted, his trademark unreal car control has been on display as he’s been able to push the car – in only its base setup – through all the items the INDYCAR officials want to see. Being able to drive at least seven or eight mph faster on a straight at Mid-Ohio already speaks to a good development path.

It’s a cool place for Montoya to be in, leaving a legacy as one of two test drivers for the new car. And he’ll get that same opportunity within the Penske Acura program, because he’ll have a chance to work alongside one of racing’s most experienced 28-year-olds, in Dane Cameron.

Cameron’s already raced in all four IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship classes and has won titles in two of them (Prototype, GT Daytona), while having driven a variety of cars ranging from this year’s Cadillac DPi-V.R to the previous generation Corvette DP, the BMW Z4 GT3 he won the GTD title with in 2014, a Risi Ferrari F458 Italia (the same team Montoya tested with this spring at Sebring) and more.

That makes Cameron a natural teammate with Montoya in more ways than one; he’s excelled across a variety of cars and series at a young age. Montoya was a CART and Indianapolis 500 champion at 24, an F1 race winner by 26 and a NASCAR Cup race winner by 32.

“I think it’s very exciting for me because Dane is a young guy, is a guy that has run the series, understands the series. I think he has a lot of knowledge,” Montoya explained.

“I’ve been driving all kinds of cars. As you know, I’ve driven everything. I’ve been successful in everything.  I’m excited to bring something to the table, and at the same time as a driver, find something new, learn new things.

“I think we can work together really well and hopefully bring a ton of victories.”

Montoya will handle the bulk of the Acura ARX-05’s initial testing as Cameron won’t be available until after his current contract with Action Express Racing in its No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac ends mid-October, following Petit Le Mans.

Penske Racing president Tim Cindric is optimistic the Penske Acura program, which he expects will see a combination of he, Kyle Moyer and Jeff Swartwout overseeing portions if not all of it, will be on track by the end of the month following the ARX-05’s formal reveal at The Quail in Monterey later this week.

While Montoya would still be a natural to run an extra Team Penske IndyCar at the Indianapolis 500 next year provided the opportunity is there – he said “I would say yes in a heartbeat” to that – he said the sports car focus will be top of mind as he returns to full-time action in what will be a deep championship.

“I think it would be a fun car. From what everybody says, it has a ton of grip,” he said. “I always enjoyed driving the (old) Daytona Prototypes because you could throw them around a lot.  These cars seem to have a lot more downforce and a lot more power, so I’m excited. I just don’t know what to expect.

“I think it’s going to be a lot better and a lot quicker than what I’m thinking.”

Montoya, Cameron confirmed in first Penske Acura DPi

Montoya (Photo: IndyCar) and Cameron (Photo courtesy of IMSA)
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Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron will share one of the two Team Penske and Acura Motorsports Acura ARX-05 entries, combining one of this generation’s greatest drivers and one of this generation’s rising talents, in the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

Montoya has long been expected as a shoe-in and Cameron’s name has been top of mind for months to fill one of the Team Penske seats.

“We worked together with our partners at Acura Motorsports and Honda Performance Development (HPD) to bring together drivers that we believe will help develop our program and compete for race wins right out of the gate while also serving as great ambassadors for their brands,” said Roger Penske. “Having Juan and Dane join our program brings together two drivers that have extensive sports car racing experience in the prototype class and have already won at the top levels of the sport. This represents a great beginning to our program for 2018.”

Cameron will shift from Action Express Racing, where he won last year’s IMSA Prototype championship co-driving with Eric Curran in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Corvette DP. Success has been harder to come by in their title defense year aboard the new No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.

“Getting a chance to race for Team Penske is like a dream come true for a driver,” said Cameron. “To see all of the effort and resources that Acura Motorsports is putting into this new program to develop and win with the ARX-05, it’s really impressive. I’m so excited for the opportunity to become part of the team and work with a guy who has done all the things Juan has done. It’s going to be an awesome experience to add my name to the list of drivers that have driven for Team Penske. I’m looking forward to a busy off season and coming out of the gates strong at Daytona.”

For Montoya, meanwhile, this marks a return to full-time competition after a year racing in the month of May with Team Penske at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and then testing the 2018 Dallara universal aero kit IndyCar.

“I have really enjoyed working with Roger and Team Penske over the last four years,” said Montoya. “When Roger asked if I’d like to be part of starting this new sports car operation with Acura, it was an easy decision. I’ve always loved racing sports cars. It’s definitely a challenge and it’s going to be a lot of fun to develop a new car with Acura. I’m excited to start the testing of the ARX-05 next week. Team Penske started its winning tradition in sports cars and it’s going to be cool to be a part of a new chapter with the team.”

New 2018 IndyCar aero kit has solid test at Mid-Ohio

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Following the initial public test of the 2018 Dallara universal aero kit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last Tuesday, INDYCAR had its first road course test today at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The full release from INDYCAR is below.

One thing is certain following another successful test of the new Verizon IndyCar Series universal aero kit: Any misconception of drivers not earning their keep in the cockpit will be put to rest in 2018.

The new aero kit – developed by chassis supplier Dallara and set to be used by all competitors next season following three years of manufacturer aero kit competition between Chevrolet and Honda – was put through the paces in the road course/street course/short oval configuration for the first time today at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Juan Pablo Montoya and Oriol Servia, who debuted the new-look car in a superspeedway configuration test July 25 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, were again behind the wheel of their respective Chevrolet- and Honda-powered machines today on the 2.258-mile permanent road course.

“It feels pretty good; it’s very different than the current aero kit,” said Montoya, the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and 1999 Indy car champion. “The (new) car is a little more forgiving, but the level of downforce is a lot lighter so you slide around a lot more. That, I think, is good.

“I think you’re going to be able to see the (driver’s) hands moving a lot more on the steering wheel and I think you’re going to see the cars get out of shape a lot easier,” added Montoya, who has raced for Team Penske during all three seasons of aero kit competition starting in 2015. “The chances of mistakes are higher, so I think it’s going to bring better racing.”

Servia, a veteran of 202 Indy car starts since 2000, agreed. With the downforce level of the 2018 car about one-third less than the current car, it makes driver input a greater part of the equation for car control. Fans in the stands and watching on TV will notice how much more effort is required inside the cockpit.

“It’s harder to see the driver work when you have a lot of downforce (on the current car),” said Servia, the 2005 Champ Car World Series runner-up who made three Verizon IndyCar Series starts this season with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. “When you have a little less (downforce) and the cars move around, at least the fans can see that we’re doing something. Good or bad, we are doing something. I think it’s going to be more fun for the fans and for us.”

The test day agenda consisted of short individual runs by each driver to check that all working parts were in order and to confirm proper cooling of internal areas. Then it was on to full-stint runs.

The day was capped off by the first run of the two cars together, with Montoya leading Servia for five laps and then the two swapping positions. With more downforce generated from underneath the new car than from wings and additional aero pieces on top, it creates less turbulence for trailing cars, which should lead to more passing opportunities.

Each driver turned more than 100 laps and both were pleased with their ability to run behind the other.

“It was great, honestly,” Servia said. “I’m not just saying it because it’s what we wanted. It really was a lot better than this year’s car.

“Even at Detroit, where the speeds are a lot less, which was my last race I did (in June), you couldn’t get close to anyone even in the slow corners because there was so much downforce,” he added. “Here, of course there was downforce, but it stays very balanced. This year’s car, the rear gets loose. And the new car, you lose a little bit of front, but not much. I was surprised. I think it’s honestly very positive.

“Apparently, science works.”

Today’s test was the second of four scheduled and run by INDYCAR. Upcoming tests are slated for Iowa Speedway (Aug. 10) and Sebring International Raceway (Sept. 26). For the second straight week, Bill Pappas, INDYCAR vice president of competition/race engineering, was pleased with the test outcome.

“We went through our test list and checked off the boxes we wanted to,” Pappas said. “Both drivers felt the car was different but comfortable. We went through tires for Firestone and got the reads on those, and Firestone is happy with that.

“And we ran the cars together at the end, which I think was the most important thing, and both drivers commented that the car was very stable behind the car in front of them. We’re very pleased with the results.”

The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season continues with the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 20 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network). It is the 14th of 17 races in a hotly-contested season that sees the top four drivers in the championship – led by Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden – separated by just 17 points.

New 2018 IndyCar aero kit makes its formal test debut at IMS

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After months of buildup and following Monday’s reveal, Tuesday marked the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit’s official debut on track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

INDYCAR’s release, with a handful of social media posts embedded, is below:

If the first day of on-track testing is any indication, the new Verizon IndyCar Series car is well on its way to making Indy car racing in 2018 even better.

Juan Pablo Montoya and Oriol Servia turned more than 100 laps each on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval in their respective Chevrolet- and Honda-powered Dallara IR-12s equipped with the universal aerodynamic bodywork kit making its public debut ahead of being used by all competitors next season.

Afterward, approval of the new car’s bolder, sleeker look and performance was unanimous from everyone involved. Buy-in from the two test drivers – among the most veteran and respected around – was essential and secured from the outset.

“From Lap 1, it just felt at home,” said the 43-year-old Servia, who has driven Indy cars since 2000. “The car felt great. I was flat on it out of the pits, which just says how good the car felt right away.

“I think it’s going to be a fast, good racer.”

INDYCAR, sanctioning body for the Verizon IndyCar Series, announced in April 2016 its intent to move away from aero kit competition to a universally supplied kit in 2018. Dallara, a series chassis supplier since 1997, was named to produce and supply the universal kit.

“It’s exciting because, for the first time in the car, it drives really, really well,” said Montoya, 41 and a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner. “I think they addressed a lot of the things and the car looks great. I think having one aero kit for everybody is great for the sport. The car looks good and it drives really good.”

Montoya’s car was prepared by Team Penske and Servia’s by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, though INDYCAR is retaining control of the cars until testing is complete in late September. INDYCAR officials watched with nervous excitement as the two cars took to the track for the first time shortly after 9 a.m. ET and methodically worked through the test checklist. By 5 p.m., the checklist had been completed and a potential second day of testing Wednesday was deemed unnecessary.

“We were pleased,” said Bill Pappas, INDYCAR’s vice president of competition/race engineering who headed up the technical development of the universal kit. “It matched up with our numbers that we predicted in the wind tunnel and CFD (computational fluid dynamics), so we were very happy for that.”

Pappas said the test list included short runs by each car to “ensure that there weren’t any surprises,” followed by longer runs on the 2.5-mile oval to check for durability issues. Everyone at INDYCAR and Dallara felt confident the test would be a success, but there are never givens in racing.

“This is my first experience being part of a car being designed,” Pappas said. “Obviously, Dallara did a great job helping us, but you hold your breath until the first competitive laps are run.”

Love this place. @indianapolismotorspeedway is sooo much fun in an @indycar @teamchevy @team_penske @fitzgeraldgliderkits

A post shared by Juan Pablo Montoya (@jpmonty2) on

Old Boys. @indycar #2018 #shapingthefuture #future #racing #indy500

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Mission accomplished, at least for the first phase of testing. Additional tests for the two cars are scheduled for Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Aug. 1), Iowa Speedway (Aug. 10) and Sebring International Raceway (Sept. 26). But the fact that this opening test was completed in half the allotted time is reason to celebrate, if only for a short time.

“Everything we had planned to do in two days, we already accomplished in the first day,” Servia said. “We did lots of laps, long runs, and the car feels good. The car feels very benign.

“It just feels right and we’re not having any issues or moments out there. Very consistent. My second long run, I think, was one of my most consistent runs I’ve done at this track in all of my years.”

The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season resumes this weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Live race coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET Sunday on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, with an encore telecast at 7 p.m. on NBCSN.

INDYCAR confirms JPM, Servia, Penske, SPM for aero kit tests

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INDYCAR has confirmed Juan Pablo Montoya and Oriol Servia as test drivers and Team Penske (Chevrolet) and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (Honda) to provide cars for the new Dallara 2018 universal aero kit testing.

The first on-track test is scheduled for July 25 and 26 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, before the first road course test at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course that comes following the Honda Indy 200 later this month.

INDYCAR’s full release is below.

Veteran Indy car drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Oriol Servia have been named by INDYCAR to perform testing duties for the Dallara universal aero kit to be used by all Verizon IndyCar Series teams starting in the 2018 season.

Testing of the universal kit, which will be fitted to the current Dallara IR-12 chassis used by all teams, begins July 25-26 on the 2.5-mile oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Subsequent tests will take place on the permanent road course at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the short oval at Iowa Speedway and a street-course simulation at Sebring International Raceway.

The two test cars will represent the engine manufacturers currently competing in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Team Penske will provide the Chevrolet-powered Dallara chassis to be driven by Montoya. Servia will drive a Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara with a Honda engine.

While the teams are providing crews to service the cars, the testing regimen will be supervised by INDYCAR, sanctioning organization for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“If we can help in any small measure to have a great product in 2018, I’ll be honored,” said Servia, who has raced Indy cars since 2000 and reached his milestone 200th career start at the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in May.

“It’s great that INDYCAR is doing it to make sure we have good racing. We want to help them accomplish what they want to accomplish.”

The 2018 universal aero kit marks the beginning of a new era. Dallara was named last month to manufacture the kit following a yearlong process at INDYCAR to establish the parameters for a sleeker, bolder bodywork kit whose look is inspired by past favorite chassis that competed in Indy car racing.

Chevrolet and Honda have been supplying aero kits to their contracted teams since 2015, but that will cease at the end of this season. The new universal kit is expected to be more cost-effective, with the intent to draw additional engine manufacturers to the Verizon IndyCar Series since they no longer need to supply aero kits as well.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 27: Juan Pablo Montoya of Columbia, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet prepares to practice on Carb Day ahead of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

“I think they did a really good job with it,” said Montoya, the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner who counts 15 race wins and the 1999 CART championship among his motorsports accomplishments. “I think going back to one aero kit for both (engine) manufacturers is good for the sport. … It opens the door to other companies to get interested in INDYCAR again.”

INDYCAR will maintain control of the test chassis and data, so as not to provide either test team a competitive advantage for the 2018 season. Data and results will be distributed to all teams once testing is complete.

The universal kit contains additional safety enhancements and is intended to deliver even greater on-track racing since most of the aerodynamic downforce will be generated from underneath the car. That will create less air turbulence for trailing cars, allowing for more overtaking opportunities.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 26: Oriol Servia of Spain, driver of the#16 Manitowoc Honda prepares to drive during Carb day for the 101st Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 26, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Another component of the universal kit’s design is a weight redistribution to improve the car’s handling and balance.

“The new car will have more weight on the front,” said Tino Belli, INDYCAR’s director of aerodynamic development. “We’ve removed the (rear) wheel guards and the beam wing, which obviously is quite a bit of weight far back on the car. We’ve introduced side-impact structures beside the driver and moved the radiators forward a bit. We’re anticipating having about 1.6 percent more weight on the front axle, so that could require a small amount of front downforce.”

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway test will mark the public debut of the new car look. Computer-generated images of the universal kit were initially released in January and followed up with more detailed images in May. The response from Verizon IndyCar Series drivers has been overwhelmingly positive, as were the responses of Servia and Montoya to the invitation to be the first to test it.

“To be chosen as one of the guys to test it is exciting,” Montoya said. “It works out really well. Since I’m not running full-time this year, it was a good fit.”

As with the current kits, the universal kit will come in two specifications: one for superspeedways and the other for road courses, street circuits and short ovals. Testing at all venues will be used to confirm the baseline standards for the package, starting with the superspeedway kit at Indianapolis.

“Once we’re sure the car is in the right window, we’ll move on to reliability testing,” Belli said. “We’ll put the car back to a race-level of downforce, fill it up with fuel and check that we don’t have issues with the exhaust heating the bodywork too much and establish the cooling levels for each engine.

“We’re not really trying to go a certain speed and we’re not trying to check how the car handles in traffic,” emphasized Belli. “Those things won’t be established until we’re able to work ‘in anger’ next year, but we just want to make sure that we haven’t missed on our aero targets specifically.”

After IMS, the rest of the test schedule is set for Aug. 1 at Mid-Ohio, Aug. 10 at Iowa and Sept. 26 at Sebring.