Driving the Le Mans- and championship-winning Porsche 919 Hybrid at the Bahrain International Circuit this weekend, Montoya set the fastest time of the day. His "qualifying" lap was clocked at 1:40.86, barely more than a second behind the 1:39.67 lap that earned Timo Bernhard pole position in the previous day's race – and a second faster than the fastest lap set in the race by Neel Jani in another 919 Hybrid. That's a mighty impressive feat for a driver relatively unaccustomed to driving a modern hybrid LMP1.
Racing fans will know Montoya as a multi-talented driver. The Colombian has competed successfully in Formula One, Indy, NASCAR, and sports prototypes, winning races in all disciplines. Aside from the International Formula 3000 title, three outright victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona, and a handful of NASCAR street-course races, Montoya can count among his many achievements the CART title, two Indianapolis 500 wins, and the checkered flag at the Monaco Grand Prix (along with six other F1 races).
Those victories have brought JP among the closest to winning the Triple Crown of motorsports of any driver in racing history, and he's still competing. For those unfamiliar, the Triple Crown is an unofficial measure to gauge the diverse talents of professional racing drivers in three disciplines: Indy, F1, and Le Mans. To win, a driver has to win the Indianapolis 500, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and either the Monaco Grand Prix or the Formula One World Championship.
Graham Hill is the only driver in history to have swept all the categories, but others have come close. The list of near-winners includes Tazio Nuvolari, Mike Hawthrown, Phil Hill, AJ Foyt, Bruce McLaren, Jim Clark, Mario Andretti, and Emerson Fittipaldi. The only contenders still active are Montoya and Jacques Villeneuve, who won at Indy in '95, the F1 championship in '97, and came second at Le Mans in 2008. Villenueve could still steal the crown if he gets another shot at Le Mans, but the more likely scenario would be to see Montoya rise to the throne. Especially if this test session is any indication.
Also driving the Porsche was in the rookie test session was Mitch Evans, a former GP3 champion and GP2 race winner from New Zealand. Fellow Kiwi and up-and-coming formula racing driver Richie Stanaway drove the Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro. And the Toyota TS040 Hybrid was shared by two British drivers: newly crowned LMP2 champion and Formula E race winner Sam Bird, and Williams F1 test driver and GP2 race winner Alex Lynn. None of them, however, managed to come close to matching Montoya's time. With Nico Hülkenberg – the F1 driver who together with teammates won at Le Mans this year – unable to compete next year due to a scheduling conflict, Porsche would be wise to bring Juan Pablo on board to take his place... and give him a proper shot at securing the Triple Crown.
Montoya and Evans test the World Champion's Porsche 919 Hybrid
Stuttgart. The day after the great finale at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC), FIA Endurance World Champion Porsche has offered two drivers a test opportunity for the 919 Hybrid. Alongside GP2 driver Mitch Evans (21, New Zealand), former Formula One star and two times Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya (40, Columbia) was testing. Evans, who won Sunday's GP2 race on the 5.421 kilometre long track, left a great impression as well as Montoya who, amongst other successes, has won seven F1 grand prix.
Evans' fastest of his 54 laps during a race simulation was 1:43.60 minutes, only 1.71 seconds slower than Neel Jani's fastest race lap of 1:41.89 minutes on Saturday during the 6-Hours of Bahrain. Montoya did 55 laps with the car of world champions Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber. During Montoya's race simulation his best lap was 1:44.46 minutes and when he was in qualifying mode, he set the fastest lap time of the day in 1:40.86 minutes. For comparison: Timo Bernhard's lap time which secured the team the eighth pole position in the eighth race, was 1:39.67 minutes.
Team Principal Andreas Seidl: "After the highlight of yesterday we have been using the 2015 spec Porsche 919 Hybrid to give Mitch and Juan Pablo a good test opportunity with a lot of mileage. The day went smoothly with a mixed programme of short runs in the morning and longer runs for both drivers in the afternoon. Mitch had the experience of the Barcelona test under his belt; Juan Pablo only had a simulator session before and drove the car for the first time. We are very interested in drivers' impressions, especially if it comes to a driver like Juan Pablo who has successfully driven so many different kinds of race car in his career. Both were quickly up to speed and did a good job."
Juan Pablo Montoya (40, Columbia): "The car is amazing, it is currently the most advanced race car on the planet and it is a hell of a toy. I have driven all kinds of cars and this one is a lot of fun. It has a lot of power, is really, really stable and because it is so predictable, it invites you to overdrive it. That's what I found the most impressive thing. In fact the car is so good that you don't realize the speed your going. Beforehand it was a bit shocking when I was given a 30 page manual of how to operate the car, but then it wasn't that difficult. The track here is good and I enjoyed the time here in Bahrain a lot. I came early to get an idea of how the team is doing things. I knew Fritz Enzinger and Andreas Seidl from Formula One days and it was great when they invited me to drive the 919 Hybrid. We don't have any plans for the future, we didn't even talk about it. I came to Bahrain to have fun and drive the hell out of the car and it was great."
Mitch Evans (21, New Zealand): "It's great to be back in the Porsche 919 Hybrid and to enjoy this level of technology. The car is really great to drive and it's easy to get confidence in it. I'm learning little things here and there every lap. The car benefits a lot from the four-wheel drive under braking and obviously acceleration. The 919 has got a lot of downforce and the way it looks after its tyres is a lot better than in a GP2 car. The 919 Hybrid is a very refined car, the team has done a great job. Thanks to Porsche and to the FIA who have enabled me to do this rookie test."