Juan Pablo Montoya is now two races into his return to open-wheel racing. But to hear him tell it, the transition back remains anything but easy.
Montoya took this week’s IndyCar test at Texas Motor Speedway as a chance to get more acclimated with the Dallara DW12 on an oval. He made 14 starts at TMS in a NASCAR Sprint Cup stock car, but had never experienced the track in an open-wheel car.
Therein lies one of the toughest obstacles in his adjustment to the faster speeds of the IndyCars after seven years in stock cars.
“It was hard at the beginning. It’s still hard,” the Colombian said at TMS. “There are weeks, like here for example, places that I have been in the Cup car before makes it harder. Sebring was actually pretty simple because I kind of had the memory of the IndyCar and that was a long time ago, but that’s what I’ve done there always. You kind of have a reference.
“Where like here for example, you are used to lifting and braking and all that stuff and you can run fairly wide open. It’s hard. It makes it fun but it’s so much quicker.”
Montoya also noted that he was leaning on some of his past experience in Formula One to get him through the adjustment, but said that the physicality of driving an IndyCar was another challenge entirely.
“Being in F1 really helped me get back to [driving] an IndyCar because it relates more to an F1 than an IndyCar when I drove [in CART],” he said. “We’ve got carbon brakes, paddle shifting, tunnel downforce.
“Still, something really hard is how physical they are. To run a race in an IndyCar is like doing a 1,200-mile Cup race or something. It’s like, three times harder.”