DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya got to try his hand at driving a Ferrari sports car on Friday at Sebring Int’l Raceway.
Montoya, a NASCAR Cup Series and Formula One race winner as well as the 1999 CART champion, joined the Risi Competizione team for the second day of a two-day, IMSA-sanctioned test at Sebring.
The Risi team was focused on preparations for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida on March 18, as well as the remainder of the WeatherTech Championship season, with regular drivers Toni Vilander and James Calado in the GT Le Mans class.
However, the 41-year-old Colombian got his first turn behind the wheel of the No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE shortly after the lunch break Friday afternoon. And while Montoya has turned plenty of laps on the portion of the Sebring circuit that runs from turns three to 13 around the area known as Green Park, he hadn’t previously run on the full, 3.74-mile, 17-turn circuit that utilizes former concrete runways from what was Hendricks Field – an Army Air Force training base – in the 1940s.
“It’s fun,” Montoya said. “It’s different. I only ran, probably, eight laps just to get the hang of it a little and I’m going to try to get in a little bit later. It’s fun. I’ve never really run the big track. It’s pretty bumpy.”
Montoya has driven and won races in a number of different race cars over his storied career, including IndyCars, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars and Formula One machinery, as well as Prototype sports cars. However, the Ferrari was a different experience.
“Prototypes drive more like an open-wheel car,” he explained. “This is very different. There’s a lot of pitch movement in the cars, it’s kind of tricky. It’s very easy to get it wrong. It’s like, you go in one time and it’s like, ‘Oh, it turns.’ The next time you go in, it doesn’t and the next time you go in, it goes smooth. It’s very hard to be consistent.”
Montoya’s only racing commitment thus far in 2017 is the quest for a third Indianapolis 500 victory in May as part of a five-car assault from Team Penske after winning the 2015 race for the team. So, would he be interested in racing the Risi Ferrari?
“If they would let me, yeah,” he said. “But I don’t know if they’d let me.”
The Risi team already has confirmed plans to field the No. 62 entry for Vilander, Calado and Italian driver Giancarlo Fisichella at Sebring, with Vilander and Fisichella expected to be the team’s full-time drivers in the WeatherTech Championship.
As for potential other sports car racing prospects for Montoya, he says, “Time will tell.”