And lastly, we wish former Super Aguri F1 racing driver Franck Montagny a happy 34rd birthday today!
After a lengthy and successful apprenticeship in karts, Montagny made his open-wheeler debut in 1994 as a sixteen-year-old, winning the French Renault Campus championship and moving into French Formula Renault for two seasons.
The national F3 championship was next up, and he finished fourth overall in his rookie season in 1997. But he shot to prominence the following year in European F3, scoring a brilliant pole at Spa-Francorchamps – ahead of no less than Mark Webber, Luciano Burti, and Enrique Bernoldi, while soundly thrashing team-mate Sébastien Bourdais all season long. He would also win the Formula 3 Masters at Zandvoort, beating the likes of Nick Heidfeld, who was the German F3 title holder.
But two quiet seasons in F3000 followed, and he moved to the World Series by Nissan championship in 2001, where he won half the races and beat Tomas Scheckter to the title, and finished runner-up the following year, before taking a second title in 2003.
By then he’d had a Friday test driver outing with the Renault F1 team (having been signed as the team’s test driver) on its home soil at Magny Cours, and he earned another call-up to Jordan in 2005 for the European GP, where he lapped quicker than either of the squad’s regular drivers, Tiago Monteiro or Narain Karthikeyan.
Montagny was now in hot demand, having also been called up to assist with the development of the new GP2 car for the feeder series that was replacing F3000.
For 2006, the new Super Aguri F1 concern took Montagny on as its third driver, and he was promoted to the race seat when Yuji Ide’s superlicense was revoked ahead of the European GP. He contested seven Grands Prix for the little team, generally not getting the same equipment as team leader Takuma Sato, but acquitted himself well enough, before his tenure came to an end when Sakon Yamamoto was able to buy his way into Montagny’s race seat.
Montagny went on to become Toyota’s F1 test driver, and is now a regular on the Le Mans and SuperLeague Formula circuits.