Montoya to Test Endurance
January 5, 2007 | 9:53 A.M. EST
As RacingOne first reported on Sept. 26, 2006, the 31-year-old Montoya has been confirmed as one of Chip Ganassi Racing's drivers for the 45th annual Rolex 24 At Daytona, scheduled for January 27-28.
The former Formula One driver was unveiled today at a press conference as the third driver for the No. 01 TELMEX/Target Lexus Riley. He will team up alongside 2004 Daytona Prototype co-champion Scott Pruett and two-time A1 GP winner Salvador Duran.
This will be Montoya's first race at "The World Center of Racing," one of the last prestigious venues remaining where he has not won an event. Previously, he has claimed victories on the streets of Long Beach (1999), Indianapolis Motor Speedway (May 2000), the streets of Monaco (2003) and the Autodromo Nationale di Monza (2001 and 2005).
"I think it would be great (to win). It’s nice to know that you are coming here with a car that you know can win. It makes it really exciting," said Montoya. "Daytona, especially in America, is a big deal. It would be a very nice win if you can win it before the (Daytona) 500. To come here to the 500 with a 24-hour win would be very cool."
"You can’t really say you are going to win it before you start it, but so far it looks pretty good though."
In the other Chip Ganassi Racing entry, IRL IndyCar Series champions Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon will be joined by Memo Rojas in the 2006 Rolex 24 At Daytona race winning No. 02 Target/TELMEX Lexus Riley.
While they will be split apart for the season-opening event, Rojas and Pruett will share the No. 01 entry for the 2007 season. The team decided to split the pair for the Rolex 24 to maximize the team's points opportunities for the championship. However, this decision means that while the Ganassi drivers can claim the team championship, they cannot share the DP drivers title should they reach that high level, as Pruett and Max Papis did in 2004.
"Last year, had we split Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz (at the Rolex 24), I think we would have won the drivers championship as well. We didn’t do that, and that was a little bit of a mistake," said Team Owner Chip Ganassi, who last year captured the team championship with Pruett and Diaz. "So for this year, we will have Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas together. But for this race, we will have Scott and Memo split in two different cars, hoping that will pay dividends at the end of the season."
However, with the amount of star power the team employs for this event, nobody should think that one car enjoys an advantage over the other.
"We wanted to come back here and have two cars that can run until the end of the race, and hopefully we will be able to do that," said Team Managing Director Mike Hull. "We wanted two strong cars, two strong driver lineups."
"Chip Ganassi Racing has always been about partnership. It’s hard to say Telmex and Target simultaneously, I’m not quite sure how we do that, but our cars are partnered up equally with Target/Telmex with Felix Sabates. We’ve got Target drivers, we have representation from NASCAR with Juan now, we have representation from a future Formula One guy in Salvador Duran, representation from all different persuasions of racing in Scott Pruett and a young rising star in Memo Rojas. That’s what Chip Ganassi Racing has always been about, putting people together that have one common denominator – and that’s wanting to win a race. I hope that in the end, a Target/Telmex or Telmex/Target car wins the race. That’s why we came."
The announcement ended speculation voiced by Dixon in September that Montoya would join the defending winning No. 02 entry for the Rolex 24. That scenario would have put Montoya in the seat held last year by Casey Mears, whom he will replace in the No. 42 Texaco Havoline Dodge in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series this season.
While Montoya will get his first taste of a Daytona Prototype on Friday, this particular style of racing isn't as foreign to the Colombian driver as stock car racing, as he spent the early part of his career competing in Colombian Trans-Am style races - claiming a class win in sport sedans in 1994 – and also raced and claimed a class win during the Bogota Six Hours in 1995.