Dane Cameron is settling into his new life and role as an Acura Team Penske driver as quickly as possible.
The former Action Express Racing driver, who won the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype title with Eric Curran, spent months waiting for the most recent season to end. Due to contractual obligations with AXR, starting the next phase of his career with Acura and Penske – and sampling the new ARX-05 DPi – would only become possible after the season finale at Road Atlanta. Now that he’s free, Cameron is flat out as the team continues to log testing miles at Daytona and Sebring.
“I couldn’t stand having to wait to drive the car and get up to speed with Team Penske,” he told RACER. “For me, the coolest part has been getting to know everyone; it’s a lot of new names for me to learn, but that’s where I think we’re going to make the biggest impact. You always hear how good this team is, in everything they do, and then you find yourself a part the organization and realize all you need to do is play your part because you’re surrounded with the best people. And the car is also quite cool.”
Trading Cameron’s AXR Cadillac DPi-V.R and its monstrous V8 engine for the mid-size turbo that powers the Acura ARX-05 has required the greatest adjustment so far in driving techniques.
“Going from the 6.2-liter engine to a 3.5-liter V6 with twin turbos is the main change from inside the car, but they do the same things, just in different ways,” he said. “The Acura has good torque and power, and it’s just a case of learning how it comes to you. Other than picking up on that change, we’re just working on learning more about the ARX-05 and what it wants to go quickly. At this stage, which is very early, everything is running according to plan.”
Along with new teammate Ricky Taylor, who won the 2017 Prototype title with his father’s Cadillac DPi team, Cameron (pictured above) has been a valuable source of feedback to Acura Team Penske as it prepares to make its WeatherTech Championship debut with a new car.
“That’s one of the things I think Ricky and I bring to the team; we both have a full year in a DPi, and Ricky’s team did most of the development work for the Cadillac, so while there isn’t anything we can directly carry over to the Acura, we can use what we know to guide things in certain directions,” he added.
“The Cadillac’s built on the Dallara chassis and our Acura is built with ORECA, so it’s apples and oranges in terms of the constructors, but we know what a DPi should do in the brake zones, or how it should handle; what kind of targets to look for. And from that, the team has asked us if we should go more in one area to improve something, or if we should be concentrating on something else. Since our teammates are new to DPi, if we can make our car better from our experience, it’s part of why we’re here.”
The last benefit to finally joining the team as it moves from test to test for Cameron is getting to know his new co-driver, two-time Indy 500 winner and 1999 CART IndyCar champion Juan Pablo Montoya. The two briefly met during downtime at Petit Le Mans, and with more testing, the Californian-Colombian connection is beginning to build.
“Juan is a blast to be around,” he said. “I’d only spoken to him over the phone when I signed with the team, and we chatted for a few minutes at Petit, so this is really my first time getting to know him and it’s been super easy working together. Juan’s really direct in what he wants from the car, and I’m like that, too.
“The chemistry we have, with Helio [Castroneves], who always has us laughing, and Ricky, and Juan, Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal, and all the guys, it’s amazing. I think we’re going to enjoy ourselves a lot next year. We’re here to win races, of course, but there are a lot of characters in this team to keep things light and interesting.”