AUGUST 12, 2009
Franck gets a shot in America
Franck Montagny is one of those drivers who never got a proper chance in Formula 1. His CV was good enough. He grew up in a small town near St Etienne, watching local hero Alain Prost winning in F1. He was a frontrunner from the start of his career, overcame nasty leg injuries early in his career to come back to win 10 of 22 races in Formula 3 in 1998. He moved up to Formula 3000 and was soon on the podium but the team was not competitive and in 2001 he was forced to step back to the Renault World Series. He won the title and when no break came in 2002 stayed on in the series and finished runner-up and was then champion again in 2003. Along the way he has beaten many of the current F1 drivers at various stages of their careers. His success with Renault resulted in the chance to become the team's third driver in 2004 and 2005 and a brief appearance as the third driver for Jordan in the 2005 European Grand Prix gave him a chance to show off his skills. He then helped to develop the GP2 car, while waiting for a chance in F1. The opportunity was none too spectacular but in 2006 Super Aguri F1 put him into a car to replace Yuji Ide and Franck made his debut at the European Grand Prix. Sadly it was to be a short-lived F1 career as Sakon Yamamoto arrived with a pile of money. Montagny moved on to become test driver at Toyota in 2007. In addition to his F1 work he has twice finished second at Le Mans. He went to America in 2008 and took part in the final Champ Car race at Long Beach, finishing second. His talent was spotted by Andretti Green Racing and he started racing in the team's Acura sports cars in the American Le Mans Series, winning two class victories at the end of the season as he got the car up to speed but the team decided not to compete in 2009 and so he was left without work beyond a Peugeot drive at Le Mans.
It has now been announced that the 31-year-old will be called in to race for Andretti Green in a fifth car at Sears Point in Cailfornia. He will drive alongside Danica Patrick, Marco Andretti, Tony Kanaan and Hideki Mutoh. The quartet have not won a race in over a year and the best results this season have been third places. Patrick, Andretti and Kanaan are fifth, sixth and seventh in the championship, with Mutoh 11th. The signs are that Patrick will depart at the end of the season and so the team may be looking to Montagny for 2010. However, they may simply want to find a driver who can win them a race and on the road track at Sears Point Montagny is likely to go well.