Hear from Juan Pablo Montoya, Driver of the No. 86 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet
Juan Pablo Montoya seeks to become one of eight drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 three times. Before jumping into his No. 86 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet this month, we asked him a few questions to kick off the month of May.
If Juan Pablo were to win on May 30, he would join drivers such as former-McLaren driver Johnny Rutherford (1974, 1976, 1981) and recent competitors Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009) and Dario Franchitti (2007, 2010, 2012) to become three-time champions.
While he enters the 105th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing with a new team to him in Arrow McLaren SP, there’s familiarity with McLaren as he raced for the Formula 1 team in 2005 and 2006. The two-time Indy 500 race winner will pilot one of three entries for Arrow McLaren SP in this year’s race.
Tune in this Saturday, May 15 on NBC to watch the GMR Grand Prix at 2:30 p.m. ET for 85 laps around the 2.439-mile road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The 105th Indianapolis 500 will be live May 30 on NBC at 12 p.m. ET. Montoya will be sporting a 1971 replica livery of Peter Revson, 50 years after McLaren’s first pole at the Indianapolis 500.
Q: You have a long history of racing many different racing series around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, both on the famed oval and the road course. Tell us about what it is like to be back this year for the GMR Grand Prix and 105th Indianapolis 500.
“Yeah, I’ve been lucky to run pretty much everything at Indy. Actually, I’ve even been on a MotoGP bike, in the two-seater bike, with Randy Mamola a few years back – that was a lot of fun.
In my experiences in the first few road courses at Indy, they weren’t great, but the latest ones were a lot better. So it’s exciting.
I’m excited to go back there and also pretty excited to be there with McLaren running the Indy 500 this year. The focus of the road course is really to prepare for the 500 and see what it brings.”
Q: What’s the opportunity like to be able to work alongside McLaren again and this time on the INDYCAR partnership racing with Pato and Felix?
“Working with McLaren again has been a lot of fun. It’s been an interesting experience to work and see some of the same people that I’ve worked with before, so that’s been a lot of fun.
And the opportunity to help Felix and Pato get better has been a lot of fun. I think they have a lot of speed, but I have a lot of knowledge. Pato’s just come off a win at Texas, so that’s really cool and great momentum on his side. But, at the end of the day, the 500 is a big event and hopefully we can get the job done.”
Q: You have been through multiple test sessions with Arrow McLaren SP at both WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Open Test. How do you feel about the cars as you prepare for the GMR Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500?
“On my feelings for the road course, to be honest, the test was a bit of a shocker with how different the car was from what I’m used to driving. So, we had to do a lot of changes. We are a little bit in left field to get the car more comfortable.
In a way, I think it’s been good because Felix has been struggling with some of the same things I’ve been struggling with. So, I think we can probably help Felix on the way as well, finding a good direction for the car.
Going into the oval spec, we are close. There’s some work to be done, but we are just getting started.”
Q: With each test session, you’re building on the relationship with your engineers, specifically Craig Hampson. What’s the relationship and dynamic between you and Craig over the last few months?
“My relationship with Craig has been really good. I’ve seen him before, and never really talked to him since I typically don’t talk to people I don’t work with. I’ve talked to people I’ve worked with before and we have good friendships, but you see so many engineers on pit road and you say “hi”, but you never really know who they are or anything.
I’ve seen Craig through all the years, and it’s been great working with him. He’s really open-minded, willing to go and try anything. You can tell he really knows what he is talking about, so it makes it all pretty good.”
Q: How will the GMR Grand Prix help you and the team as everyone prepares for the Indianapolis 500 on May 30?
“It is key to succeeding in the 500 because it’s very different working under pressure than working on a test day. I think it’s going to be a bit of a reality check for everybody.
Not only for the engineers, but we’ve got some younger guys working on the car, as well as some as some of the pit crew that aren’t the full-time crew. They are shop guys, so there’s work to be done, but I think running the GP and being under pressure is going to show the mistakes and show what we need to work on.
If we do a good job with that then I think we will pretty good. The whole thing here is being as good as we can be for the 500.”
Q: When you arrived at Arrow McLaren SP and now that you have driven in a few tests, are there any familiar faces on the team that you’ve worked with throughout your motorsports career?
“Yes, there are many familiar faces. Some from Penske, some from McLaren, some from Ganassi back in the day and some from INDYCAR in general.
It’s been fun. It’s a great atmosphere, everyone seems to be doing a really good job within the team and keep it really friendly. I’m really excited about it. Everyone has been making me feel at home, so I’m really happy about being here.”
Q: Thinking ahead to the Indianapolis 500, how important is maximizing the week of practice prior to qualifying to ensure a solid start position and be prepared for the race?
“The practice for the 500 is really important, because it’s your opportunity to find out what your car needs, where you are and what you need to improve.
The spotters aren’t full-time spotters, so we need to work on making sure they are doing their part. And the more we do, the more prepared we are going to be.
So, I think we are going to be OK. It’s going to be a lot of work, a lot of hair pulling and angry moments, but all is in good faith and all is in good reason behind it. The performance at the end of the day is what we are all looking for.”
Q: How will your overall motorsport experience and experience racing with other teams be beneficial for Arrow McLaren SP leading into the race?
“I think my overall experience in motorsports and everything I’ve done really helps. It’s much easier for me because, in a way, I know what I want and what the car needs. At the same time, it is bad, because when I come in and it’s totally different than what I’m used to, it makes it very difficult to drive. But, at the same time, I can tell them which direction we need to go.
The knowledge I bring from all the racing I’ve done makes running the Indianapolis 500 a little easier because I understand the racing. Especially coming from endurance racing as well, I understand that I need to be patient and take it one lap at a time to see what it brings. I’m pretty excited about it, so we will see what happens.”