MIAMI, Florida: Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya of Colombia won his second consecutive IndyCar Grand Prix of Saint Petersburg, holding off Frenchman Simon Pagenaud to win Sunday’s (Monday in Manila) 2016 season opener.
Montoya gave car owner Roger Penske his eighth win in the past 11 races over 110 laps at the 1.8-mile (2.89-kilometer), 14-turn Florida temporary street course.
The South American star guided the car to victory despite a broken steering arm that caused severe play over the final five laps.
“It was like lag, lag, turn, but it was OK,” Montoya said.
Montoya won for the first time since taking his second Indy 500 title last year while pole starter Pagenaud was second with American Ryan Hunter-Reay third and Brazil’s Helio Castroneves fourth.
Australian pole winner Will Power was pulled from the line-up with a stomach illness and later diagnosed with a concussion, with Spain’s Oriol Servia replacing him in a vehicle that was moved to the rear of the 22-car field.
Pagenaud moved into pole position, the third of his IndyCar career, and Castroneves joined him on the front row and Montoya started on the inside of row two. Pagenaud led early while Montoya passed Castroneves for second.
US rookie Conor Daly, on a different fuel strategy, led on a lap-57 restart that saw Montoya pass Pagenaud on the inside of the first turn seconds before a chain-reaction crash in turn four that collected nine cars.
“We raced each other hard but we gave each other room,” Montoya said.
On a lap 64 restart, Montoya again moved inside on the first turn to pass Daly and seize the lead for good.
Daly pitted with 29 laps remaining and two laps later, Montoya and Pagenaud made their last pit stops. The South American beat the Frenchman back onto the course and denied Pagenaud his fifth career IndyCar win.
Montoya raced two ChampCar seasons in 1999 and 2000, winning 10 races and the 1999 season crown plus the 2000 Indianapolis 500, then spent six seasons in Formula One, winning seven races before jumping to the US stock car series for seven seasons from 2007 to 2013.
Montoya, 40, moved to IndyCar in 2014 and won three races in his first two seasons, including last year at Saint Petersburg and Indy.