Juan Pablo Montoya takes the Le Mans challenge with Porsche, can he win the "Triple Crown"?
Former Formula 1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya has accepted the challenge of trying to become the first driver in modern times to win motor sport's leg...
Former Formula 1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya has accepted the challenge of trying to become the first driver in modern times to win motor sport's legendary "Triple crown" - Le Mans 24hrs, Monaco GP and Indianapolis 500.
He could step into Nico Hulkenberg's seat after the German was denied the chance to defend his Le Mans crown by a change of F1 dates which meant a clash with the French classic.
The Colombian will begin his preparations for Le Mans 2016 with a test in a Porsche LMP1 car in Bahrain after the conclusion of the 2015 World Endurance Championship (WEC).
Montoya, who last raced in F1 in 2006, had a seat fitting with the German marque ahead of a test with the team at the Sakhir Circuit on November 22.
Montoya recently attended the Austin round of the WEC season as a guest of Porsche, as a prelude to the challenge.
Graham Hill is the only driver to have won all three events and Montoya is the only active driver to have won the Monaco Grand Prix, in 2003, and the Indy 500, which he won in 2000 and again this season.
When JAonF1 spoke to Montoya about an attempt at the Triple Crown at the FIA Sport Conference in Mexico in July, he had not at that point considered trying to win the Triple Crown but confirmed that he wanted the opportunity one day to race at Le Mans.
He said: “I race because I love it. At some point do I want to try and win the 24 Hours? Yes.
“I won Daytona 24 hours three times, but I’m not a guy who says ‘In two years I want to be doing that’. I can’t see past this weekend’s IndyCar race.
“It’s hard to programme yourself for the long term, especially if your long term is something different. You are either doing this, or you are doing that. But do I want to try to win it [Le Mans]? Yes.”
WEC boss Gerard Neveu also told this site at the Conference that he would welcome Montoya to race at Le Mans and said he would help the seven-times Grand Prix winner get an LMP1 seat. Clearly things have moved swiftly on from there.
He said: “A champion like Juan Pablo is always welcome to on the grid. His achievements and his character are fantastic and I am sure that, if he wants, he can find a seat in an LMP1 car, to fight for the victory. We would really like to have a champion like him.”
The chances of Montoya racing with Porsche, which has dominated WEC since the 24 hour race in Junes, at Le Mans next year have increased after the FIA released the latest draft of the 2016 F1 calendar and the European Grand Prix in Baku will now clash with the endurance race.
That means Hulkenberg, who won Le Mans alongside Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber this year, will be unable to defend the title with his teammates due his commitments to Force India.
Speaking at the Russian Grand Prix, Hulkenberg said: “I'm committed to do Formula 1. That's my main job my main target is here. It's something out of my hands, out of my control. We'll just have to go with what they decide and accept it I'm afraid.
Although the F1 calendar remains provisional, Porsche has a point where its driver line-ups for 2016 have to be decided, but Hulkenberg accepts that decision is not in his control.
He said: "There'll be a certain cut-off point. The calendar is there now but it can still get changed a little bit afterwards. There will be a cut-off point for [Porsche] as well, where they have to confirm their drivers, but I think there is still some time.
"For sure, it would have been nice to go there again. Having said that it would have been a very busy year, 21 races, plus testing, plus two races is also a big challenge.
"I was thinking as well 'is it still possible?' and 'is it good to do both?', but I think I would have done it again."
Montoya will also be racing in IndyCar in 2016 but no races are scheduled on the same weekend as the Le Mans race, although a race in Detroit does clash with the Le Mans Test day. However, it is understood that Montoya could complete the laps required to start Le Mans during the race’s practice sessions.
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