Montoya looks forward to reunion with Alonso at Indianapolis

Juan Pablo Montoya never enjoyed the same degree of success Fernando Alonso achieved in Formula One.

Montoya looks forward to reunion with Alonso at Indianapolis
Juan Pablo Montoya, Team Penske Chevrolet
Juan Pablo Montoya and Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso and Juan Pablo Montoya
Juan Pablo Montoya, Team Penske Chevrolet
Podium: race winner Juan Pablo Montoya and 2005 World Champion Fernando Alonso celebrate
Race action
Practice action
Juan Pablo Montoya, Team Penske Chevrolet

But he’s grateful to have the opportunity to race against his former rival again — in this year’s Indianapolis 500.

“If you would have told me I was going to win a race ever against Alonso, it would be an endurance race or something, not in Indy to be honest,” Montoya said. “I think it’s great.

“I think having Fernando is going to be a really good day for motorsports, not only for IndyCar, but I think the attention overall for seeing Fernando and myself and everybody running Indy is going to be really big.”

The learning curve

Although Alonso and Montoya entered F1 as rookies together in 2001, the only driver making his debut in the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 will be the former two-time world champion from Spain. Montoya, who won the Greatest Spectacle in Racing twice, understands the importance of competing with the right team and the right equipment. Alonso will have an excellent level of support with Andretti Autosport.

He also believes giving Alonso a full day of testing on May 3 will expedite his learning process.

“I think the good thing, with a full day of testing, he will get a bit of an idea of what he needs,” Montoya said. “Just good to have a day with no pressure where you can build up, and you understand what it takes. I think it will be fine.

“He is with a good team and they always run well there as well. I’m sure McLaren is going to get involved and look at all the data. They are going to do it properly.”

Alonso's greatest test

Although Alonso ran the road course for the U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway from 2001 to 2007, next month’s race will mark his first time on the oval. Montoya, who won his first Indy 500 in 2000 prior to coming to F1, believes the distance and traffic will pose the greatest test for the 35-year-old Spaniard.

“The biggest challenge is going to be first he has never done a race that is that long, and the traffic,” Montoya said. “He is going to have to learn and understand the traffic. I think if he is patient enough through the week and builds to it, I think he will be fine.

“He is a really good driver. He has really good teammates. People have run at Indy before and run well. There is no reason why he shouldn’t run well.”

Montoya getting back into an Indy car

Montoya, who returns to action next month with Team Penske in the IndyCar Grand Prix, tested at Barber Motorsport Park on March 21 to knock the rust off for the race on May 13.

“Actually most of the morning I was quicker than all my teammates,” Montoya said. “I was like ‘I don’t know.’ It was good. Honestly, I run that Barber test is the best I’ve run ever at Barber. We changed the car quite a bit we have an engineer and we looked at a lot of stuff in the last few years.

“It’s really good because we are not focusing on 100 things. We are focusing on two races. Okay we talked about the races and we talked about the test and we said okay in the test I struggled here, I struggled there, this was a problem… he looked at everything and said oh the problem is this, the problem is that and we over looked and over looked and he said oh we are going to start here, here and there and it was good. It was easier to drive than ever there.”

The Colombian, who now calls Miami home, had a good time in stock car racing but doesn’t miss the weekly grind. Although he would welcome the opportunity to run NASCAR again, he’s not seeking out opportunities.

JPM coaching his son

These days, his racing interests are centered on being driver coach for his son Sebastian, who turned 12 last week and race karts in Europe this summer.

“I am taking him there because he needs to go where they are going to kick your ass,” Montoya said. “The more they kick your ass the more you learn. At least that worked for me. If you are winning you are not learning. I think I just want to make him the best driver I can make him when he is young and see what happens.”

With wins in F1, NASCAR, IndyCar and the Daytona 24-Hour race, Montoya is encouraged by the interest of World Champions such as Alonso and Lewis Hamilton in other racing disciplines.

“It would be nice for motorsports to do a little more of that because it’s just going to create a little more interest overall,” Montoya said. “It is something that it would be nice to see all motorsports to be able to see top drivers jump from one to the other just for one race.

“I was lucky enough to be in all the top series in the world and being able to win in all of them and everything. I’ve been very blessed in that point of view.”

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