Franck Montagny is a newcomer to Panasonic Toyota Racing as third driver in 2007, but he is far from a rookie behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car after four years at the pinnacle of motorsport.
Montagny was successful in karting before he graduated to single-seater racing with championship victory in Formula Campus France in 1994. When he won Rookie of the Year honours in the 1995 French Formula Renault series, he looked set for the top.
The following year also started well, but disaster was to strike at Le Mans. He was fighting for victory but when he pulled out to pass the leader, there was contact, and Montagny’s car was violently flung into the barriers before coming to rest in the middle of the track, where it was struck by his helpless rivals. He suffered fractured legs, broken vertebrae and shattered tendons. His career hung in the balance, and just being able to walk again was considered an optimistic outlook.
But the drive to succeed in motorsport inspired Montagny to make a miraculous recovery. He returned a more focused driver than ever and was back in a Formula Renault car six months after his horror crash – using crutches to get behind the wheel. F3 wins followed in 1997, and he just missed out on a French title victory in 1998.
Two difficult seasons of F3000 followed, and Montagny’s career temporarily lost direction, leading him to take a step back into the Nissan Open Championship. A title win was his immediate reward in 2001 and, despite losing the crown to future Toyota driver Ricardo Zonta in 2002, he continued winning and a year later he was on top again.
That form attracted the attention of F1 team bosses and Montagny was signed up as Renault test driver in 2003, contributing to the improvement in form that culminated in the World Championship-winning campaign of 2005. He had one GP weekend Friday test outing with Renault, and another with Jordan.
However, an F1 race seat eluded him until newcomers Super Aguri called him up. He originally joined the team as third driver, but was given a chance to race in the 2006 European GP. He went on to make a total of seven starts with the team, before stepping back into a third driver role, a position he has now earned at Toyota. "