The test at Sebring International Raceway was Montoya’s first opportunity to get in his new car. He last drove in IndyCar in 2000, the year he won the Indianapolis 500 driving for Chip Ganassi.
Montoya spent seven seasons in NASCAR driving for Ganassi, but signed with rival Roger Penske in September to return to IndyCar when Ganassi decided not to bring the Colombian back for the 2014 season.
“I still don’t believe it that I’m here, to be honest with you,” Montoya said. “I look at the car and everything, my name on the car. It’s really exciting. It’s nice because there’s been excitement (from) everybody that I’m coming back to open wheel.”
New Penske teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves both attended the test, and Power prepared the car before turning the No. 2 over to Montoya. Also on hand was Penske adviser and four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears.
“You don’t win races in Formula One and poles in Formula One and races in the CART Series on your first try if you’re slow,” Power said. “I actually expected to learn from him. He’s already brought some good ideas to the team even before he got in the car. Just from what I see from the data, he has a very similar style to me. The way he brakes and everything. That should be good as far as our setups.”
Added Castroneves: “He felt really comfortable in the car. I wasn’t expecting anything different to be honest. He was really relaxed.”
Montoya described the first run as “really, really weird,” because of all the personal adjustments he had to make to the car.
“The position of the wheel was really different. With a Cup wheel, you try to put it as low as you can, but it’s so big, the wheel is a lot higher, so getting comfortable is a little bit different,” said Montoya, adding that braking was difficult.
“You get on brakes and there’s a bit of lag while the brakes get hot. So it takes a while to get used to that, but you get used to it. We’re miles away from where I think I need to be, but second and third run it was going through the gears, through the motions. It’s just so different. It’s going to take a little bit of time.”
“Really, everybody works together and is trying to get me up to speed as fast as I can,” Montoya said. “The faster I get up to speed, the better it is for everybody.”
Montoya had modest goals for Monday: He wanted to get comfortable in the car and figure out what has changed since 2000, when he won the Indianapolis 500 driving for Ganassi.
“I’m not going out there to try and break the track record on the first lap,” he said. “I’m going to build up to it and keep working on the car and get the car to do what I want. You learn that as you go through the years. When you are young, you drive the car anywhere it is. Then you realize you can make it drive for you, you can achieve the same things with half the effort.”