Juan Pablo Montoya takes on new role: mechanic for his son

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At 42 years old, it’s no secret that Juan Pablo Montoya is in the twilight of a career that has seen him win some of racing’s biggest events.

So what’s next for the Colombian driver when he finally hangs up his firesuit?

Would you believe mechanic?

But there’s a caveat with that.

Montoya is serving as mechanic for 12-year-old son Sebastian’s rising effort in the go-kart world – and he’s loving every minute of it.

Veteran motorsports writer Godwin Kelly had a great story about father and son Montoya’s exploits in the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

While JPM will race full-time in the IMSA Series for Team Penske this season, he’s also playing the key role in his son’s development of potentially following in his father’s footsteps and racing shoes.

The elder Montoya has a stellar resume that includes two wins in the Indianapolis 500, seven wins in Formula One and three victories at the upcoming Rolex 24 at Daytona.

He’s back at Daytona International Speedway this week as Sebastian’s go-to guy when it comes to servicing the car and keeping it running in tip-top shape. And even though Juan Pablo downplays his role, he’s obviously taught Sebastian well — not to mention make his go-kart one of the best in the field.

Daytona KartWeek concluded today and Sebastian has made both his name and his pedigree known. He finished third in his first race Friday, was second in the half-mile sprint course and then won the day’s final race.

“Some dads and sons go fishing,” Sebastian told Kelly and the News-Journal. “For us, it’s go-karting. This is fun.”

Added Juan Pablo, “Sebastian has been racing about five years. I’m here as his mechanic. I do everything. Sometimes, when we come with a big team, he has his own mechanic, but I like wrenching. We work good together. We are competitive this way.”

Sebastian spent much of last season racing go-karts in Europe under his father’s expert tutelage.

“I put him in these tough situations, always,” Montoya told the N-J with a smile on his face and a glint in his eye. “I don’t make his life easy. Last year was a good learning year for him, and this year should be better for Sebastian.”

While father and son were due to depart Daytona Saturday evening, JPM won’t be away long: he returns to DIS on Thursday to prepare for next weekend’s Roar Before the 24, followed by the season-opening Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona three weeks later.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds