Lowndes and Montoya contested the ’97 European Formula 3000 Championship together with the RSM Marko team. While Montoya finished a close second in the series after winning three races, Lowndes struggled, a single fourth place being his best result.
Montoya would springboard to Formula 1 within a few years, while Lowndes’ dream of international openwheeler stardom ended there. Instead, he returned to Australia to resume a successful touring car career.
Lowndes has bitter memories of his 12-months’ experience as Montoya’s team-mate.
“He (Montoya) was a very aggressive person as a personality and as a driver,” he told Greg Rust.
“He was arrogant. He’d never done a day’s work outside of driving. His parents had paid for him the whole way through. He drove that year in the team without a sponsor on the car.
“He demanded everything, he got everything; he was just a lot different to me and it is brutal over there.”
Compounding the problems for Lowndes was that the RSM Marko team did not have separate engineers for the two cars.
“We didn’t really have an engineer for the first half of the season. There was one engineer who engineered both cars and (Montoya) drove the car very differently to what I did.
“They basically made the cars the same and very similar in their set-ups and I just had to deal with it.”
Lowndes’ preferred option had been the Super Nova team, with which he had done his initial F3000 test. He revealed on Inside Supercars that in hindsight that things may have been different had he gone with Super Nova.
“I went over there at the end of ’96 and test drove with David Sears and Super Nova.
“We tested at Snetterton and he immediately said ‘you’ve got some bad habits already from driving a touring car, we need to get that out of you’.
“Then Tom (Walkinshaw, Lowndes’ manager and the then-owner of the Holden Racing Team for which Lowndes had driven in 1996) said ‘look, there’s another team, RSM Marko, testing at Budapest’.
“We had a test there, went back to England, Tom sat down and we had a discussion about which one would be the better.”
The sticking point, says Lowndes, came down to Sears wanting a two-year programme.
“RSM Marko wanted to try and condense it into 12 months. I think for Tom that was a better attraction.
“It was basically one of those things where you’ve got to try and sink or swim.”
Source: Inside Sport Montoya Image: Getty