By: Ashley McCubbin
The 2020 WeatherTech IMSA Championship saw Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron paired at Team Penske racing against Olivier Pla and A.J. Allmendinger at Meyer Shank Racing. Though flash forward to this year, and foursome are all together in a familiar ride.
“For me, I feel they just traded another French for another French,” Montoya joked to POPULAR SPEED. “Really, I spoke to Oliver before the weekend and A.J., I knew him from before. It’s been a lot of fun. We all seem to be working together really well, and at the end of the day, we’re all aiming at the same.”
Roger Penske closed down his SportsCar program at the end of 2020, with the chassis and car which Montoya and Cameron drove being delivered to Mike Shank just after the 12 Hours of Sebring event – with Shank moving into DPi competition following back-to-back GTD Championships.
“I have to say both of them have been great with me to learn the car, to understand the car,” Pla said. “They have a lot of experience with this car so I rely on them a lot, actually. We have a good time together and we’re all here for the same reason actually so there’s no competition between us as we want to win the race together, that’s it.”
Being able to stick with the old car eased Cameron’s “compressed” off-season, erasing the headaches you would normally have to get in adjusting to a new ride. However, it doesn’t mean everything is the same as it was before.
“It’s always different when you change teams – different dynamic, you’re trying to find your way through and the right people,” Cameron explained. “Every team has it’s differences and quarks for sure. Mike has done a great job, obviously with their back-to-back GTD Championships. They’ve been very strong lately, and have always been and especially at this race. I’ve really been enjoying it, enjoying the environment, and learning the car. The car is pretty much developed, we came with some information; everybody wants to have their influence on it so still learning and trying to make it better entering 2021.”
Cameron went on to say with Meyer Shank Racing’s crew guys getting their hands on the Acura ARX-05 for the first time, they are sharing ideas and tweaks they feel will make them even faster.
“We’ve had the same guys that had been running in the car for three years and they know where to go, where not to go,” he continued. “Now when you have a fresh set of eyes on the program, even though Juan and I can say this is what normally happens when we do this, they want to do that or something new just to see what it does because they don’t know. Really, for Juan and I, it’s been about trying to guide them and letting them know if the feeling is right or wrong, and just keeping things in the right direction with our experience in the car. So far, everything has been good as the feeling has been similar to what we felt at Penske before.”
The tweaks they have been making have been successful this far, with Allmendinger posting the second quickest lap across all four practices, just 0.141 seconds off of Ranger van der Zande’s lap for Chip Ganassi Racing.