When Juan Pablo Montoya first started racing, motorsports simulators were something out of a sci-fi fantasy. He didn’t encounter them himself to sharpen his skills until he went to Formula 1 in 2001 and began developing the sim at the Williams F1 team.
Nowadays, the two-time Indy 500 winner uses simulators to hone his skills at Acura Team Penske in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship—a series where he currently leads the points standings.
But, Juan Pablo isn’t the only member of the Montoya family that is regularly partaking in simulator training. His 14 year old son Sebastian is also making use of the technology for his own career.
“Simulators have been a big part of racing since I went to Formula 1. When I was in Formula 1 in Williams, I was part of the development of the first one,” Montoya said.
“When I went to McLaren, they already had one. A lot of the preparation then happened in the simulator for the race weekends.
“Nowadays, pretty much every team has simulators. My kid is 14, turns 15 next year and he’ll be racing in Europe next year in cars. He spends a lot of time in simulators like this just preparing and testing and getting used to the cars.
“I try to raise the bar for him and I don’t want him to beat me — hell no! But, it’s getting to the point now, especially in the smaller cars, where he can match me.
“For me, it’s a cool experience as a dad and as a racer to see him grow.”
While not every young driver has a seven-time F1 race winner as a father, nearly every young driver has access to simulators for a relatively low price, lower certainly than track days.
Montoya believes that access to lower-cost driver training is crucial and will open up the sport to people that wouldn’t normally have the financial means to make it.
“[In racing], it’s your own speed against everybody else’s. And the cool thing is, if you need more experience, you can spend more time doing it with simulators and the cost for that is minimal,” he said.
“If you want to do it in a real car, if you want to go for a track day, the costs are incredible. The potential of simulators are really cool, especially as it starts growing you’re gonna see younger guys coming into esports.”