The magic of Monaco and Montoya's dazzling Indy 500 win
I’ve been around this sport for 34 years – 25 of those as a journalist – yet there are days when motorsport makes my spine tingle just like it did on my first as a fan.
Memorial Day weekend is always special, with the Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500 and Charlotte 600 NASCAR events taking place within a few hours of each other. And while many of us like to chastise, bitch and moan about the state of contemporary racing, there was plenty to celebrate from my viewpoint.
I was fortunate enough to be in Monaco across the weekend, primarily to launch the GPDA fan survey on Motorsport.com.
Although much of the race there was soporific, the Mercedes strategy blunder to pit Lewis Hamilton and effectively throw away his victory, was a jaw-dropping moment that won’t be forgotten for a while.
Just after the restart, I had flashbacks to those memorable moments in 1992 when Nigel Mansell hounded Ayrton Senna, just as Hamilton subsequently did to Sebastian Vettel.
As Nigel found back then, even with a huge car/tyre advantage a great overtaker can’t find a way past a clever customer on a track where track position is king.
Indy excitement trumps Monaco
Those tense and exciting final laps were mirrored – and then some – by what transpired at Indy.
The closing 15 tours of the Brickyard produced some of the most pulsating racing in the venue’s glittering history, as Will Power, Scott Dixon and Juan Pablo Montoya went wheel-to-wheel at 225mph with the biggest prize in US motorsport at stake.
As much as I respect the immense abilities of Power and Dixon, I have to say Montoya truly deserved this one. Not least for the way he fought back from damage sustained just before the first restart – again, like in Monaco, the race started in such turgid fashion with not a hint of what excitement would transpire later.
The moments that will stick in my mind forever began when Montoya passed Dixon in the short chute after running his left-side tyres through the Turn 1 grass. But the truly epic split-seconds for me came with five to go, when he ran so low through Turn 2 in Dixon’s wake that he grabbed four or five snatches of opposite lock.
He stayed out of the wall – an accident that never happened. His hand-speed on the wheel was simply blurry; if you ever want to see true genius behind the wheel, look no further.
JPM maintained that huge momentum to pass Dixon after another lap-and-a-straight into Turn 3, and then blitzed Power into Turn 1 just 16s later for his first win here since that amazing debut victory in 2000.
Take a bow, Monty. You're a truly special one.