Montoya: “I had no idea how cool Le Mans would be”

Juan Pablo Montoya says he had no expectations ahead of his first outing at the circuit of the Le Mans 24 Hours, but was wowed during Sunday's official test day.

Montoya: “I had no idea how cool Le Mans would be”
#32 United Autosports Ligier JSP217 Gibson: Juan Pablo Montoya
#32 United Autosports Ligier JSP217 Gibson: Juan Pablo Montoya
#32 United Autosports Ligier JSP217 Gibson: Juan Pablo Montoya
#32 United Autosports Ligier JSP217 Gibson: Hugo de Sadeleer, Will Owen, Juan Pablo Montoya
#32 United Autosports Ligier JSP217 Gibson: Juan Pablo Montoya
#32 United Autosports Ligier JSP217 Gibson: Juan Pablo Montoya

Montoya signed up with the Anglo-American LMP2 outfit United Autosports for his Le Mans debut, sharing a Ligier JS P217 LMP2 with young guns Hugo de Sadeleer and Will Owen.

The two-time Indy 500 winner arrived in Le Mans on Sunday morning straight from Detroit, where he took part in Saturday's IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar race for Acura Team Penske. 

"Honestly I had no idea how good or how cool it was going to be,” said Montoya. “I really enjoyed it. I really didn’t know what to expect so I was pretty open-minded about it. 

“I did the [Le Mans] simulator to get approved, and I did a little bit in a simulator in Miami. It was very nice to drive there but I was actually surprised by how good and how challenging it is.”

Montoya thoroughly enjoyed the fastest sections of the 8.5-mile Circuit de la Sarthe, such as Tertre Rouge, Indianapolis and Porsche Curves. 

“The fast corners are a lot of fun here because they’re proper fast corners,” the seven-time grand prix winner said. “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!’”

The 42-year-old posted a 3m32.363s to put the United Ligier 14th in class, but thinks he could have gone a lot quicker. 

“I was pretty happy actually,” he continued. “The car is very different from the one I race in America. 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, honestly I’ve been lucky not to have gone off there today. But that’s what makes it fun.”

Flashback: Le Mans 1975, the year Montoya was born...

shares
comments
Button admits he found Le Mans “disconcerting” at first

Previous article

Button admits he found Le Mans “disconcerting” at first

Next article

Toyota: Rebellion, SMP are "very serious competitors"

Toyota: Rebellion, SMP are "very serious competitors"
Load comments
The understated Le Mans legend who has earned a testimonial Prime

The understated Le Mans legend who has earned a testimonial

OPINION: After 24 Le Mans 24 Hours participations, 50-year-old Emmanuel Collard will be absent from the grid this year, stuck at the mercy of his gold driver grading. But, while he's not motivated by breaking start records, the French veteran is determined to return to the field next year.

WEC
Jul 24, 2021
The lasting legacy of a fallen Indy car rookie Prime

The lasting legacy of a fallen Indy car rookie

Jeff Krosnoff was plucked out of obscurity to become a respected and highly popular professional in Japan, and then got his big break in CART Indy car for 1996. But a tragic accident at Toronto 25 years ago cut short a promising career and curtailed his regular teammate Mauro Martini's passion for racing.

IndyCar
Jul 14, 2021
The significance of the next step in WEC/IMSA convergence Prime

The significance of the next step in WEC/IMSA convergence

Following the latest convergence connection permitting Le Mans Hypercars from the FIA World Endurance Championship to compete against LMDh entries in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship from 2023, it could open up enticing options not only to manufacturers but also for the calendar and race formats

WEC
Jul 13, 2021
How overlooked Mazda produced one of Le Mans' greatest shocks Prime

How overlooked Mazda produced one of Le Mans' greatest shocks

The screaming rotary-engined Mazda 787 is regarded as one of the most popular Le Mans 24 Hours-winning cars, but until its surprise success on this day 30 years ago it was never regarded as a likely victor. But that reckoned without a new technical partner, some canny political manoeuvring and a rival's bizarre self-inflicted weakness.

Le Mans
Jun 23, 2021
How an ingenious fix prevented Paul Newman from winning Le Mans Prime

How an ingenious fix prevented Paul Newman from winning Le Mans

It's one of the great what-if stories in Le Mans history. Paul Newman finished second in the 24 Hours in 1979, but it could easily have been a famous victory were it not for the resourcefulness of the late Manfred Kremer.

Le Mans
Apr 13, 2021
Why Ferrari is ending its 50-year top-flight sportscar racing exile Prime

Why Ferrari is ending its 50-year top-flight sportscar racing exile

Making a return to top-flight sportscar racing after 50 years away, Ferrari will enter the Le Mans Hypercar ranks in 2023. The Italian marque denies the link with Formula 1's new cost cap that frees up resources, but it's certainly no coincidence...

WEC
Feb 25, 2021
Oliver Gavin's Corvette Racing highlights Prime

Oliver Gavin's Corvette Racing highlights

Oliver Gavin has stepped down from the full-time Corvette Racing line-up after a stellar career with the team spanning nearly 20 years. He looks back on a stint that encompassed, among other successes, five Le Mans 24 Hours victories.

Le Mans
Jan 28, 2021
How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends Prime

How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends

Victory at last year's Spa 24 Hours meant Nick Tandy had completed the unofficial sextuple crown of the world's six biggest endurance races, becoming the first Briton to do so. Ahead of his fresh start with Corvette Racing, he explains how he did it…

Le Mans
Jan 24, 2021