Acura Team Penske driver Juan Pablo Montoya says the pace of this year’s Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona will be “insane” as a result of the DPi and LMP2 classes being separated by IMSA for 2019.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has previously had to manage an awkward Balance of Performance compromise between spec LMP2 machinery and the manufacturer-influenced DPi cars, which have more technical freedom in areas such as aerodynamics and engine design.
With the DPi class returning to its initial levels of performance, rather than being pegged back to the fastest LMP2 car's pace, Montoya is predicting a major shift in how the Rolex 24 plays out.
The Colombian legend, who joined IMSA in 2018 with the then-new Penske-Acura program, has also suggested that the series’ wholesale switch from Continental tires to Michelins will have a noticeable effect.
He told Motorsport.com: "I think the pace is going to be insane, the beating on the cars is going to be insane, because you've got to expect that basically its going to be [racing at the] minimum of what the pace was last year, plus there's [new] Michelin tires.
"I think it will drive differently. I think you still need to survive but you don't want to be left behind on speed either."
The Roar Before the 24 test, which begins today, is mandatory for all teams entering the Rolex 24 and the entry list has confirmed just four LMP2 machines, as opposed to the 11 cars in DPi.
Asked if he therefore expected traffic to become a bigger problem for the DPi cars, Montoya said: "It will be a nightmare, it always is. But Daytona, when you have a 24-hour race, you need to be patient but you still need to figure out the moves."
Montoya open to Le Mans return
Montoya competed in the Le Mans 24 Hours for the first time in 2018, racing for the United Autosports LMP2 squad. He crashed after "running out of talent" during the night but managed to avoid major damage to the car he shared with Will Owen and Hugo de Sadeleer, eventually finishing third in LMP2 and seventh overall.
Now JPM, a two-time Indy 500 winner and Monaco Grand Prix winner, has admitted he would consider a return to Le Mans.
"If a good opportunity comes, for sure," he said. "I did one of those races, it was very relaxed for me and very different [compared to Daytona].
"I don't know why it was so relaxing, but it really was. There was drama, and I could get out the car and go to sleep. It was nice!"
Expanding further on the differences between Daytona and Le Mans, Montoya added: "You can spend two laps without seeing another car. A lap at Le Mans is seven minutes, it's a completely different race.
"I loved it at Le Mans last year, it was an amazing experience, but it's a different experience than here [at Daytona]."
#32 United Autosports Ligier JSP217 Gibson: Hugo de Sadeleer, Will Owen, Juan Pablo Montoya
Photo by: Nikolaz Godet
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