Homestead, FL (October 28, 1998) -- Juan-Pablo Montoya, the Colombian FIA Formula 3000 champion who replaces Alex Zanardi next year completed his first Champ car test with Chip Ganassi's team on Monday at the Homestead Motorsports Complex in...
Homestead, FL (October 28, 1998) -- Juan-Pablo Montoya, the Colombian FIA Formula 3000 champion who replaces Alex Zanardi next year completed his first Champ car test with Chip Ganassi's team on Monday at the Homestead Motorsports Complex in south Florida. Montoya ran last Thursday and Friday on the 2.18-mile Homestead road course and tested on Sunday and Monday on the 1.5-mile oval. Driving one of Ganassi's Reynard-Hondas on Firestone tires, Montoya ran 294 miles over two days on the road course before moving to the oval where gusty winds prevented him from recording any fast laps.
Montoya's first day on the road course was cut short by morning rain but he enjoyed an uninterrupted second day. He benefited from Alex Zanardi's presence and advice for his final two days on the oval with Zanardi running the car initially to make sure it was set-up correctly. Montoya's quickest lap on the oval after the first day was 27.1 secs, more than two seconds away from a good lap, but the point of the exercise wasn't to go fast but to find his feet on an oval.
"We couldn't be happier," said Ganassi team manager Tom Anderson. "Juan Pablo has a tremendous amount of natural talent. He's very intelligent, has a good feel for the car and expresses himself very well in terms of what he's experiencing in the car."
A portion of the test was spent simulating yellow flags, restarts and pit stops and Montoya also completed a full tank run. "He's tested a lot in Formula One, so he adjusted very well," Anderson noted. "It's obvious that he's very talented and has a lot of ability. All he needs is a little experience."
Ganassi's chief engineer Mo Nunn was also impressed with Montoya. "The oval didn't frighten him at all," Nunn commented. "We wanted him to be very steady and to think about it and he just took to it. It didn't faze him at all. Alex gave him some good advice. Alex told him to let his body relax, to hold the wheel lightly, and not be tense in the car."
After completing the road circuit phase of his test, Montoya was satisfied with his early progress. "So far I'm really happy," Montoya said. "The car felt a little different than the ones I'm used to, but it wasn't too difficult. I think I took the car pretty close to its limits, except for in a few of the corners. I was a bit off in the baking because these brakes are quite different than a Formula One car, but overall I felt really good."
Chief engineer Nunn has not completed an agreement with Ganassi for 1999, but said that now he has seen Montoya in action he is likely to do so. "I would have no problem working with this kid," Nunn said. "He's very quick and very confident."