When Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya secured the IMSA SportsCar Championship title with a fourth-place finish in October’s Petit Le Mans season finale, it was understandable that ex-IndyCar, Formula 1 and NASCAR ace Montoya received the lion’s share of the attention from the media.
But in reality, it was the understated Cameron – picking up a second title in the Prototype ranks after his 2017 success with Action Express Racing – who emerged as the outstanding 2019 Acura Team Penske driver. IMSA is a series that rewards consistency above all else, and in that regard, Cameron and Montoya delivered in spades with an incredible run of seven podium finishes starting from Long Beach.
The next round at Mid-Ohio marked the first of three wins for the #6 ARX-05, with Montoya doing the bulk of the heavy lifting there, but Cameron’s brilliance was largely to thank for the other two at Detroit, where he pulled off a superb double-overtake and resisted heavy pressure from the Cadillac of Felipe Nasr, and Laguna Seca, where he was instrumental in ensuring the #6 car came out on top in a straight fight against the sister Acura of Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor.
That put Cameron and Montoya in a strong position heading into Petit Le Mans, where the duo duly sealed the crown by five points. Cameron proved every bit a match for his more celebrated stablemates over a single lap too: of the five times he qualified the #6 car, three times he was the quickest Acura driver, a feat managed only once by Montoya. On two of those occasions, he took pole (Sebring and Road America) while the remaining Acura drivers scored only one apiece.
Although Cadillac squads monopolised the top two positions in the three marquee races, and at times a revitalised Mazda outfit looked unbeatable, the Acura was the strongest package over the course of the year.
But Cameron’s virtuosity behind the wheel, as well as his wealth of sportscar racing experience and technical know-how, ensured Acura Team Penske was able to convert its obvious potential into silverware in year two.
What was the key to Acura Team Penske’s resurgence after a tough first season? I was very pleased to get another championship and rebound from a bit of a disappointing 2018 season. Identifying where we went wrong and recovering to the kind of form expected of Acura Team Penske made it very satisfying. Across the board, we made a lot of improvements: car performance, strategy calls, Juan Pablo and I working together to improve the car’s handling. It wasn’t for a lack of pace in 2018, it just didn’t quite come together. We were confident we were there or thereabouts and it wouldn’t take much to get some strong results; it was just about getting everything to line up perfectly. IMSA is so competitive right now, you have to execute perfectly to be able to win races. I feel like I’m driving better than ever and now I look forward to trying to go back-to-back in 2020.
Which individual performance was your strongest this season? Probably I’d say my best race was Detroit. We didn’t think that was going to be a race win-type track for us, it’s quite good for the Cadillac with the traction and the torque they have. We thought that one would be difficult, and we had a good restart and I overtook some cars, and I held off the #31 [AXR] car, which was probably quicker than us at the end. That one is slightly ahead of Laguna, which was a pretty much a perfect race and really pivotal for the championship to give ourselves some comfort for Petit Le Mans. Anything can happen in a 10-hour race so having a buffer in the points took a bit of the stress away.
What is it like to share a car with such an illustrious driver as Juan Pablo? Obviously, it’s a been a tremendous relationship with Juan Pablo, pushing each other to be quicker in a positive way – it’s not ego-driven at all. In sportscars you have to do whatever it takes to get the result; you have to have that trust in your team-mate. Both of us had pole positions, both of us won races as the finishing driver, we had a lot of confidence in each other that the other guy could get the job done. And there was no shame in saying, ‘this place is better for me, this place is better for you’, we kind of juggled it that way based on how we felt. That helped us push forward and get better in the #6 car. We turned out to like similar things from the car in most places, which is helpful. We found a good balance of what we needed to go faster together and go fast individually. It’s worked out really well."