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
Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked Prime

Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked

Toyota scored its fourth Le Mans 24 Hours victory and a 1-2, with the #7 car of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez beating the #8. But although it looked straightforward from the outside, Toyota faced serious problem that had to be solved with some quick-thinking and ingenuity.

Le Mans
Aug 24, 2021
What we've learned from the Le Mans 24 Hours so far Prime

What we've learned from the Le Mans 24 Hours so far

The new dawn for the FIA World Endurance Championship has arrived at Le Mans, as Hypercars prepare to duel for victory in the world's oldest endurance race. Motorsport.com picks out the 10 things we have learned in the build up to the race.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2021
Le Mans 2021: The team-by-team guide Prime

Le Mans 2021: The team-by-team guide

After a two-month delay due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours is set to get underway with the start of the Hypercar era at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2021
The ex-F1 drivers making a name for themselves in LMP2 at Le Mans Prime

The ex-F1 drivers making a name for themselves in LMP2 at Le Mans

Kevin Magnussen will make his Le Mans 24 Hours debut this weekend alongside father Jan in LMP2. But the Danes won't be the only ex-F1 drivers to appear in the hotly contested category this year.

Le Mans
Aug 20, 2021
Can Toyota's #7 crew break its Le Mans curse? Prime

Can Toyota's #7 crew break its Le Mans curse?

One Toyota, normally with the number 7 on the side, always seems to attract the bad luck in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez are hoping for a change in fortune this time around, but face significantly more unknowns than in recent years

Le Mans
Aug 19, 2021
How to prepare an amateur for Le Mans sensory overload Prime

How to prepare an amateur for Le Mans sensory overload

The 23-car GTE Am field promises to be one of the most open in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, with the added jeopardy of managing the enthusiasm of amateur drivers to boot, as Absolute Racing Porsche driver Marco Seefried explains

Le Mans
Aug 19, 2021
Why Glickenhaus should be taken seriously on its Le Mans bow Prime

Why Glickenhaus should be taken seriously on its Le Mans bow

Many were quick to dismiss Glickenhaus when the boutique American sportscar firm's entry into the top class of the Le Mans 24 Hours was announced. It's all-new LMH racer, powered by an engine built by a rally specialist, goes in as the underdog against Toyota but the mathematical odds suggest that it has more than just a faint hope of success.

Le Mans
Aug 18, 2021
How 1971's benchmark Le Mans team lost with the best car Prime

How 1971's benchmark Le Mans team lost with the best car

The JW Automotive Engineering team won twice at the Le Mans 24 Hours with ageing Fords and was considered the heavy favourite to add more victories to its tally after partnering with Porsche. But despite being armed with the all-conquering 917, this formidable combination was never as successful in real life as on the big screen.

Le Mans
Aug 15, 2021