Just a week after his final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series outing, Juan Pablo Montoya was back behind the wheel on Monday at a cool and windy Sebring International Raceway in Florida, but in a very different type of car.
Rather than the heavy, enclosed stock cars that he's become used to after seven years of racing in NASCAR, this week saw him return to the type of high-speed open-wheel car in which he made his name in CART and F1, as the 38-year-old Colombian got his first taste of a modern IndyCar ahead of his return to the series in 2014 with Team Penske.
His new team mate Will Power did the initial runs in the car to provide an initial set-up and baseline, and then it was over to Montoya - who was soon up to speed, impressing the team with how quickly he was able to start putting in comparable times despite his long time away from this type of car.
"For a first day, I'd give myself an eight. I'm surprised the speed has been pretty good, just a few too many mistakes," was Montoya's summary at the end of his first test. "Just a bit sloppy. It's understandable for a first day.
"It's been a pretty windy day and kind of cool, so it's been actually really good," he continued. "We worked a lot on the car and getting to where I'm comfortable with the car.
"I'm trying to get the car to work for me. The biggest thing is that everything is still happening really fast. It's okay but as it's happens so fast you end up making mistakes," he explained. "More time in the car and everything will slow down and it will be easier. That's kind of normal and it's happened to me before a few times, so I know that with time everything will be easier. I'm happy."
Penske Racing President Tim Cindric was overseeing the test, and liked what he saw of Montoya's first day at the office. As the session was a private test put together purely to give Montoya some track time in his new car, there were no official times released at the end of the day but Cindric confirmed that Montoya "was within a few tenths of Will in the first outing."
"It was pretty impressive, really we put him out on old tyres just to learn where the gear shifts were and then put him back on Will's tyre and he was within a couple tenths right out of the box," Cindric elaborated. "Right now it's happening pretty fast, but the last half a second, he's probably a half a second off the guys who were here last week, but that's not too bad. Finding the last half second without losing his confidence will be the challenge."