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De la Rosa to replace Montoya 11 Jul 2006

Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, United States Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Indianapolis, USA, 1 July 2006

McLaren have announced current race driver Juan Pablo Montoya will not drive for the rest of the 2006 season and test driver Pedro de la Rosa will race alongside Kimi Raikkonen for this weekend’s French Grand Prix.

Montoya confirmed at the weekend that he planned to leave Formula One racing for NASCAR next year. He will now spend time in Miami with his wife Connie, who is expecting their second child in September and prepare for his NASCAR debut.

Chip Ganassi, the boss of Montoya’s new NASCAR team, has already revealed that he expects Montoya will start racing in NASCAR this year and it is understood the Colombian will begin making preparations, almost immediately, for his debut.

"I know that it will be a tough transition but I'm really excited about the opportunity to move into the NASCAR championship,” said Montoya in the McLaren statement. “I have enjoyed most of my time in Formula One and I'm grateful for this opportunity to settle my personal life and concentrate on my future career."

Montoya joined McLaren in 2005 and finished fourth in the drivers’ championship during his first year. So far this season he has climbed to sixth place in the drivers’ standing after winning 26 points for the team.

“Juan Pablo is an exciting driver and immensely likeable character who will undoubtedly make a successful transition to the NASCAR scene," commented McLaren team principal, Ron Dennis. "We have agreed that with so many things happening in Juan Pablo's life right now, he should take some time out of the car and prepare professionally and personally for the future."

De la Rosa has been a McLaren test driver since 2003. The Spaniard has only competed in a race for Mclaren once - in the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2005 - but managed to finish in fifth place to score four points for the team.

"I'm of course extremely thrilled to have this opportunity to race the MP4-21 - a car in which I'm really comfortable," said De la Rosa. "I know the MP4-21 better than anyone else and I'm confident that I can achieve important World Championship points for the team."