Juan Pablo Montoya could be a busy man during IMSA’s Le Mans break if the Acura Team Penske driver comes to terms with United Autosports for an LMP2 drive at the French endurance event.
In his new full-time role with the Penske’s Daytona Prototype international outfit, the two-time Indy 500 winner’s schedule would be open to contest his first 24 Hours of Le Mans, but only if the Captain allows the extracurricular activity and the ensuing terms with UA meet Montoya’s approval.
“I don’t know anything yet,” he told RACER. “If I were to do it, it would be more towards the future to learn the track.”
If an arrangement with the Zak Brown- and Richard Dean-owned team goes through, Montoya would join a small contingent of WeatherTech SportsCar Championship drivers who would swiftly depart the Detroit IMSA race on Saturday, June 2, and head to Le Mans to participate in Sunday’s official test pre-race at the 8.5-mile circuit. A return for official practice June 13-14 and the June 15-16 race with UA would follow.
As a winner of the Monaco Grand Prix and a double victor at Indianapolis, Montoya has been asked on numerous occasions whether completing racing’s Triple Crown with an overall win at Le Mans is of interest. To date, the desire to race at Le Mans has outweighed any interest in joining the exclusive club of Triple Crown members.
Although the likelihood of finishing first with an LMP2 car – especially with a much larger LMP1 field this year – would be slim, Montoya says he’s looking a few years down the road where it might be possible. With ongoing talks between IMSA and the French ACO/WEC sanctioning bodies to develop a common DPi-style car to replace LMP1, the Colombian would welcome the chance to take the overall win for Penske if the opportunity arises.
“I don’t think it would be the case this year, but with the talks about it a few years from now, it would be cool to get some experience there if I can,” he said. “I’ve never been there [for the race]. I’ve been to the go-kart track there, but that’s it. And my personal opinion is I think the rules will go towards the [DPi] formula that IMSA has. I would be really good, and would strengthen the chances of DPi teams going there.”
Coming to a crossroads in his career, Montoya tested with the former Porsche LMP1 program late in 2015. His Penske IndyCar contract ran through 2016, but without a solid offer to continue in open-wheel, and prior to the signing of Acura for a DPi effort, a switch to the WEC with Porsche was considered until its pending exit from LMP1 made the rounds. Remaining with Penske to spearhead its return to IMSA has, so far, been everything the 42-year-old could ask for.
“I’m really happy with the decision I made,” he said. “The time was right for me to do something different.”
If Montoya’s name is added to the Le Mans entry list, he’ll join his friend Fernando Alonso, who’ll race for the Toyota LMP1 program, as part of a high-profile rookie class at La Sarthe.