The truth behind the absence of ex-Formula 1 driver and Formula E frontrunner Franck Montagny from last month’s Formula E round at Putrajaya has finally been revealed: the Frenchman tested positive for a derivative of cocaine, an act which could spell the end of the 36-year-old’s motorsport career.
Montagny – a former World Series by Renault champion and Renault F1 test driver – contested seven Formula 1 races for the now-defunct Super Aguri F1 Team in 2006 before going on to achieve success in sports cars.
Having raced a handful of times in the Andretti Autosport IndyCar team, he joined the outfit’s Formula E line-up and finished second in the series’ inaugural race on the streets of Beijing, followed by a lowly 15th at the next round in Putrajaya.
Montagny’s eleventh-hour absence from the grid at the third race in Uruguay for “health reasons” came as something of a surprise, but it spelled good news for former Toro Rosso F1 driver Jean-Éric Vergne, who sensationally qualified on pole on debut.
But the reasons have now become apparent, with Montagny revealing to French newspaper L’Equipe that he had failed a random drug test on the weekend of the Putrajaya round in November.
“At the end of the race, I saw the guys who signalled me,” he said of the drug testers.
“There in my head, I understood immediately. I knew it was over. I took the plane, I did not go out, [I was at] home, in my four walls. Then I called my parents to tell them. I was ashamed.”
Montagny did not request a ‘B’ sample be taken and, as a consequence, is automatically suspended from all forms of motor racing until a sanction is handed down by the FIA.
The FIA International Sporting Code stipulates that “violation of the regulations in individual sports in connection with an in-competition test automatically leads to disqualification of the results obtained in that competition with all resulting consequences, including forfeiture of any trophies, medals, points and prize.”
While the dangers of motorsport provide an adrenalin high for all of its drivers, testing positive for drugs is surprisingly rare in motorsport: NASCAR racer AJ Allmendinger was the last high-profile offender when he tested positive for amphetamines in 2012. Former F1 driver Tomáš Enge was stripped of his 2002 Formula 3000 championship title after testing positive for marijuana, and is currently serving an 18-month ban (under appeal) for failing a second drugs test in 2012.
What is most interesting is the source and timing of the Montagny news. That it was the driver – and not the motorsport governing body, the FIA – who broke the story is one thing, but also choosing the ‘slow news’ New Year’s Day edition of the newspaper to time it is another.
If you’re trying to bury a story then this is the ideal time to do it. But why hasn’t – and didn’t – the FIA make any form of official announcement? That in itself is perhaps the greater problem that the sport’s governing body – a French organisation headed by a Frenchman in the form of Jean Todt – will have to answer.
Images via Formula E Championship and XPB Images