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Biography

SEASON INFORMATION
13/01/2018

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Biography

 

Franck is another ex-Karter, indeed at 14 the young Frenchman won his country's Cadet Karting Championship and in the next two years won the National 1 Karting Championship and Formula Campus Championship.

In 1995 Franck moved up to Formula Renault, finishing fourth in the championship, the following year he remained in Formula Renault and looked set to finish runner-up in the championship until he was involved in a horrific accident at the Le Mans round. For a while it was doubtful that the French youngster would walk again, far less drive a racing car. However, outstanding work by Gerard Saillant, the surgeon who had saved Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo after serious injury, meant that Franck was back in action just six months later, even though he required crutches in order to walk. In an amazing comeback, six months after almost losing his life, the Frenchman was back on the podium, winning one of the final races of the season.

In 1997 he switched to F3 and finished a strong fourth in the French series, the following year he finished runner-up.

In 1999 he progressed to International F3000 racing with the DAMS team, but the highlight of his season was a fine win in the Elf Masters at Bercy. The following year he remained in F3000 with DAMS finishing runner-up.

In 2001 the Frenchman, now aged twenty-three, contested and won the Open Telefonica Nissan International Championship, while in 2002 he finished sixth in the Le Mans 24-hours.

Thus far Alain Prost is the only French World Champion, sadly for his fellow countrymen, none of his titles were won in a French car - though Renault powered his 1993 Championship winning Williams.

As Renault prepares for the time when it might be able to challenge WilliamsF1, McLaren and Ferrari, the French outfit is seeking out French talent to spearhead its attack. The signing of Franck Montagny at test driver, alongside Allan McNish for 2003 was seen as the first step towards an all-Gallic combination, the fact that the Frenchman was retained for 2004 as the team's sole testers, was seen as further proof of the high esteem in which Franck is held.

In 2004, Franck completed thousands of test miles for Renault, and will have felt great satisfaction at the early-season success enjoyed by his team.

In a couple of interviews with Pitpass it was clear that Franck enjoyed his role within the team, but what he really wanted was to be out there racing.

Therefore one can only try to imagine how the youngster felt when the team opted to part company with Jarno Trulli in September, and immediately hired 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, who in addition to having no experience of the R24, had not sat in an F1 car since Indianapolis 2003.

Although Franck was clearly disappointed, there were no tantrums, no outbursts to the media, instead he simply got on with his job, trying to improve the R24.

For 2005, Franck was retained once again, and there is no doubt that his 2,300+ test miles played a significant in the French outfit's double title success.

However, whatever the reason, the team opted not to retain his services for 2006, though it was Franck who broke the news to his fans, revealing all on his personal website.

Speaking at the end of 2005, Giancarlo Fisichella said he thought the decision to let Franck go was a bad one, the Italian clearly feeling that the Frenchman's ability as a test driver had not been fully appreciated.

Not for the first time, it appeared we may have missed out on a unique talent, simply because he didn't have the required funding, his face didn't fit or he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

However, in early 2006 the Frenchman got his break, when Super Aguri announced that having been cleared to start the season with the old (2002) chassis, Franck would be taken on board as test driver.

There was further good news for Franck, when the FIA chose to revoke Yuji Ide's race licence, for this cleared the way for Frenchman to make his F1 race debut.

Franck contested seven Grands Prix for the team before being dropped in favour of Sakon Yamamoto, team boss Aguri Suzuki making no secret of his desire to have an all-Japan line-up.

In those seven outings, Franck retired three times, while at Indianapolis he was involved in the incident that eliminated Heidfeld, Webber and Klien.

However, it wasn't all bad, during the break between the British and Canadian races, Franck contested the Le Mans 24 Hours, finishing second for Pescarolo Sport.

As Franck returned to the 'sub's bench', Super Aguri introduced its own chassis, the FA06. Whether Franck might have fared better with the new car than he did with the Arrows we shall never know, but it would be wholly wrong to judge his F1 potential on those seven appearances.

For 2007 he joined Toyota as test driver, however, the new testing restrictions meant he saw little action. On 15 November 2007, at Barcelona, the Frenchman took part in his final test for the Japanese team.

With preparations for the 2008 season already well underway, and most driver, and test driver, vacancies filled, it looks as though Franck is going to have to find employment outside F1.

Statistics - At the end of the 2007 Season

Drivers' Titles: 0
Seasons in F1: 1
Grand Prix: 7
Wins: 0
Points: 0
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 0

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