CART: An Interview with Juan Montoya
Motor racing - 17 Mar 2000
T.E. McHALE: We are pleased to welcome the 1999 FedEx Championship Series Champion, Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing. Good afternoon, Juan, thanks for joining us. JUAN MONTOYA: Hi, how are you doing? T.E. McHALE: I am doing all right. Juan virtually rewrote the CART rookie record book last year while becoming only the second rookie to drive to the Championship following Nigel Mansell in 1993. Along the way he established rookie records for victories with 7 laps led, with 954, and he tied the rookie record of 7 poles. Juan also became the youngest Champion in CART history at age 24 years, one month, and 11 days topping Jacques Villeneuve who won the 1995 Championship at age 24 years, 4 months and one day. Juan scored points in 16 of 20 starts; recorded 10 top-4 finishes and earned either a victory, a pole position, or both in 11 of 20 events. Despite a road racing background, Juan scored a series high 102 points on ovals. He scored 212 points tying him for the top spot with Dario and claimed the Championship by virtue of his 7 race victories to Dario's 3. We will now begin taking questions for Juan. Q. What is the biggest lesson you learned last year coming over to Champ Car? JUAN MONTOYA: Patience. You need a lot more patience than you ever had before. Longer races, you know, sometimes you rush to pass someone and you got use a lot more of the head. It is a lot more strategy racing. Fuel consumption and stuff like that is very important. You can get (inaudible) than anybody else, you are going to pass them like what happened at Mid-Ohio. The key was just patience. Q. Following up, how difficult has the transition to the new equipment been for you this year? Your tests look pretty good. JUAN MONTOYA: Oh, been really good. I think we have been really quick everywhere we are going. I think the worst part so far is Homestead, but I am looking forward to going to the Championship. I think Toyota has done a great job and working (inaudible) is great. Q. Juan, what is your preference Reynard or Lola? JUAN MONTOYA: I would lean at this point, you know, (inaudible) Lola so far has been a great choice. The car has been good everywhere. There is a lot of work to be done before being 100% where we want to be-- (inaudible) -- T.E. McHALE: Can you finish the answer you were just giving? JUAN MONTOYA: I would think Lola is better and it has been really good for us. It is going to be very competitive. It is not much to -- from one car to another. You can't go and say this car is better; the other one is better, but it is really close, put it to you this time. Q. Curious just how you approach the start of the season now that last year you were rookie and everything was new to you; now you have been around the block once and does that play into the way you prepare for this season? JUAN MONTOYA: No, prepare-wise, we are exactly the same as last year, we are in good shape. The only thing that helps is I got a lot more experience in how to set up the car. I think especially in the ovals, could make (inaudible) the only thing you need to do is (inaudible) the car and go for it. I think race-wise my mind is a lot more open. I think working with Bill has been really good. Bill has done a great job so far. So I am looking forward to it. It is going to be a very interesting year and I think we are going to be really competitive. Q. With the proposal by CART or the rule by CART starting next year that they were going to put a chassis freeze in place, was it taking a big chance changing chassis, engines, and everything else that the team did over the off-season? JUAN MONTOYA: Not really. I think next year is going to be next year, but this year, so far, it has been great. I think working with Lola has been really good. It has been really competitive everywhere we have been. Always been in the pace and I think, you know, when it comes to next year's choice it will be different history. The story right now is 2000 season, Lola, Toyota, and I think the team did a great decision going there. If we can win with Toyota it would be great, the car has been fantastic in testing. Q. I was just wondering, what are the similarities between this engine and that you have been testing with so far and the engine last year? JUAN MONTOYA: Nothing. It is completely different engine. It's the way it works, completely different. I think it is competitive. It has great speeds and, you know, it has shown great reliability. That was the biggest concern for us. The engine has been working; the miles we have been expecting to work and everything, so we are looking very reliable for the first season working with them. Q. I talked to Chip yesterday and he mentioned that the change really wouldn't be that big a deal because last year every track was new to you. This year you have been there before, but now you have got the new setup to work on. Is it going to take you a couple of races to get completely comfortable with everything? JUAN MONTOYA: No, I like the chassis. I like the chassis. I like the engine and it is good because everyone is working around us, so we put in chassis way we want it and, you know, we did it ourselves - with Lola, the chassis and with Toyota, the engine. We asked for something, they do it. Q. I was talking with Scott Pruett over at LasVegas. He said that Toyota last year was never down on horsepower and all. He said the big problem was fuel mileage. Have you guys seen any trouble with that in your testing? T.E. McHALE: Sounds as though we have lost Juan again. He is back. JUAN MONTOYA: Well, it has been really good so far, generally, the car has been working well. So completely comparing it with the Lola, I am sorry, with the Honda, but we are working on it and I think we will be up to speed when it comes to the first race. I think all the stories have been from Toyota (inaudible). Q. Are you guys going to be starting with the new engine? I know that last year they tried to bring on a new model, have you guys going to be with the new model right from the beginning? JUAN MONTOYA: No. I don't know. The engine we have been running is the engine we are going to run in the race as far as I know. Basically Toyota, they do the work. They put the engine on and we try it and we do the comments on the engine and they come with new things. While we got it, we are going to run. Q. Could you put to rest once and for all this rumor called a rumor that Frank Williams has some contract with you or with Chip Ganassi and that you are on loan to Chip and that after that, you know, you may have -- may have the opportunity to drive for Frank; is there any contract at all out there that is holding you between Williams and Chip? JUAN MONTOYA: Not really. They said last year that I was on loan from Chip -- for Chip from Frank so why didn't Frank pick me up for this year if I was on loan. There is nothing there. It was funny because it seems like we kind of swap places with Alex, but that was it. Chip went to see Alex test and I was there. He liked the way I drove and everything and with Morris, they picked me up. Only contract I got at the moment is with Chip at the moment. Q. When I was at Nazareth on Tuesday your car had broken. You were waiting for parts. Did you finally get back out on the track yesterday? JUAN MONTOYA: Yeah, I went in the afternoon I thought we run really quick. I think we (inaudible) we are right on the pace. Q. Sounds like the team has really responded in the absence of Morris Nunn. What is the feeling there now without him around? JUAN MONTOYA: Of course you miss him because Morris was a character of himself. Things he did, he only did, are him. But actually I think the team wasn't only Morris. The team is everyone around; not only Morris or myself. I am not only the team when I win we are family and everyone that is involved has something to do with that win. I think they have done a great job, Bill Papis working with (inaudible) they work together really well. Q. Do you anticipate a point this year when the Toyota will be the best engine, having the advantage because of that engine? JUAN MONTOYA: I wouldn't say we got the best or the worst engine. We could say that we are really competitive basically. Q. But are you promised more power in the future? Everybody develops -- JUAN MONTOYA: Everyone is going to have more power in the future; not only ourselves. Q. How does Toronto -- the Toronto circuit rate in your memory? Seemed one place that was hard to get the car to work; how do you view it? How do you place it among other circuits? JUAN MONTOYA: Circuit is fun to drive, but the car wasn't right. When the car is right, you don't enjoy racing there. But I thought the city was great. I had a lot of fun there. I went there around the city. I think it was to quite a few cities I went around and I had a lot of fun there. But racing-wise I didn't think it was a great weekend for me. Q. Was it a matter you and Morris just didn't get handle on the car? JUAN MONTOYA: Well, it was one of those, you know, you can't expect to be competitive every weekend. You are going to have some weekends that you are not going to be very competitive and that was one of those. Q. I was wondering if felt any different over the winter being called champ? JUAN MONTOYA: Not really. Even sometimes forget about it. Only thing reminds me of the Championship is the number on the car. That is the only thing that changed. I think in my mind, I am exactly the same as last year just with more experience. I am a bit more wiser than last year and more prepared than last year to get to the Championship and I think it is going to be really good. Only thing I am really pleased is that Dario is back for the first race. He is going to be a good fight with him, a good fight with Tracy. Q. What will be the toughest fight this getting a handle on all the changes within the team or just battling guys that you just mentioned? JUAN MONTOYA: It is going to be, I think, one of the biggest things we have seen in testing (inaudible) seems like Ford engine is really strong, is going to be quite fun - I think, for example, the Rahal Team, they are getting a lot more stronger, you know, race by race. And it is -- there is going to be new people around the top and it is going to be very interesting. Q. I wondered if you could -- you mentioned Dario. I wondered if you could maybe talk about what his particular strengths are and what makes him as good as he is? JUAN MONTOYA: Well, I think he has always been quick. Since I remember Dario he always been quick. I think the best thing that Dario has he is a great person and he is a great driver. He is very clean competitive and he never gives up. I think that is the key of Dario's success, he never gives up, even in a bad weekend, good weekend, whereever he is, he is always giving 100%. I think last year he gave me really hard time because of that. Q. Bringing up the Williams situation again, have you had a chance to watch the Australian Grand Prix and any observations you might have on the performance of the team and obviously of Button? JUAN MONTOYA: I think William did much better work than everyone expected, I think BMW has done a great job as well. I think everyone -- Button did a great job and he led -- a lot of people were expecting bad things about him and I think he did a very good job. I am pleased for him and I am pleased for Williams, but that is a different story. That is Ralph and Jensen and that is it. I don't have anything to do there. Q. Are you ready to compete in the Indianapolis 500? Are you looking forward to that and to the two series coming together maybe? JUAN MONTOYA: Well, I am looking forward to the race. I don't think about the series getting together or not. But I think the race itself is going to be a lot of fun. It is going to be interesting. It is going to be race (inaudible) that is a lot of fun, people you don't know. It is going to be interesting and it is going to be, I think, very competitive. Q. When do you think you will make the jump to Formula 1 driving? JUAN MONTOYA: That is a difficult question. I don't even know that. When I know that I can answer that. Q. Racing a lot of times is a numbers game. Last year a lot of the top teams had a Reynard Honda, package. Now you are obviously going to be the most competitive Toyota team, but you won't have that many runners running with you and while the Ford has got 10 Fords and there is just a couple of Toyotas, how close does it look, your biggest competition will be Michael Andretti because he has got the Lola and the Ford? JUAN MONTOYA: Michael is going to be competitive, but Michael, you know, what I saw from Michael last year everything has to go right so he goes right. It is going to be interesting. They are doing their own stuff with the Lola. They are not doing the normal Lola (inaudible) -- Q. I kind of lost you. T.E. McHALE: You were talking about the Lola. Q. How the resume Newman/Haas is going to go their own way with -- JUAN MONTOYA: I think that is what they are going to do. And maybe they come up with something really good and they beat everyone. But we are not going to leave our hands crossed waiting to see what happens -- (inaudible). T.E. McHALE: It is 5 after 4. We have been at this for a couple of hours. I don't know if we are going to get Juan back any time in the immediate future. So my hunch is here, Louis, you will probably just have to go with a half-answered question and we will try to wrap up the call for today. Thanks. Sorry about the difficulty. I do want to thank all of you who stayed with us or joined us in progress or were with us at any point today. Thanks again for being with us and we will talk to you next week. A reminder, starting next Tuesday these calls will move forward on Tuesday during the season at 2:00 P.M. Eastern time. And our guest next Tuesday will be CART chairman and CEO Andrew Craig. Thanks to all of you for staying with us good afternoon. FastScripts by ASAP Sports..