The exclusivity of the “Triple Crown” means that it is not a prominent talking point in motorsport, despite its significance. Graham Hill remains the only man to have ever held the unofficial title, awarded for a driver taking victory in motorsport’s three most poignant events – the Monaco Grand Prix, Indy 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours. Modern convention means that even the most talented drivers can only dream of winning the most coveted individual event in three separate series, however, Juan Pablo Montoya is a rare breed of driver. Perhaps this, combined with his remarkable talent, is why he has an opportunity to join the most exclusive of clubs.
At the recent FIA Sports Conference at Mexico City, Montoya stated that he would indeed like to head to Le Mans in search of what would be a historic Le Mans 24 Hours victory. The Colombian won the Monaco Grand Prix when driving for BMW Williams in 2003 – a year in which Montoya challenged for F1 title honours in arguably his best season in the sport. Victory in IndyCar’s world-famous Indy 500 came both in 2000, on Montoya’s maiden visit to The Brickyard, and again earlier this year, as he passed and held off Penske teammate Will Power in the closing stages.
Montoya’s prolonged success in both F1 and IndyCar is testament to his talent behind the wheel. While it could be argued that the transition between the two series is made easier by both being single-seater competitions, that is largely where the similarities end. Winning on an oval requires an entirely different skills set to winning on Monaco’s claustrophobic streets.
Meanwhile, Nico Hulkenberg’s victory in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours has proved that a rookie can still be part of the winning team at the WEC’s most famous round. His triumph will surely prompt more drivers to take the plunge in the future. For drivers like Montoya, who find additional reserves of motivation courtesy of an opportunity to win, the prospect has been made all the more enticing.
Montoya’s goal should see him find a seat capable of taking him to LMP1 glory, but it is important not to downplay the difficulty of the race. Talent alone is not enough to win the queen of endurance races, where teamwork and a pinch of luck are also critical factors. I am sure that Montoya will tackle Le Mans’ biggest test in years to come, but there is a reason why the “Triple Crown” has only ever been achieved once.
Image Credit: "Juan Pablo Montoya - Sebring Testing 11/25/13" By Plugged 2 Racing (via Flickr) [CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0]