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Friday, July 18, 2008

Andretti Green Racing's New Hotshoe in the ALMS

Two recognizable names in American auto racing were shown the door at Andretti Green Racing. The accomplishments of Christian Fittipaldi and Bryan Herta may soon be erased by newcomer Franck Montagny

Andretti Green Racing has endured a rough couple of weeks. Reasons for firing Christian Fittipaldi and Bryan Herta still defy logic. Herta has landed on his feet as a road course consultant for Vision Racing this weekend. Maybe Tony George will create a ride for Bryan Herta. Herta is a great driver and a popular person in the paddock. Fittipaldi is a skilled driver whose productive years are behind him. Unfortunately, Christian has been saddled with a legendary racing pedigree and less than stellar results. Despite the unceremonious dismissal of two talented and likeable drivers, AGR has discovered a driver with a huge upside.

Franck Montagny had never driven an American Le Mans Series prototype until last week at Mid-Ohio before heading off to Lime Rock. Circumstances were stacked against the diminutive French driver last week in Connecticut. Marco Andretti decided to pull off the weekend double, the IndyCar Series in Nashville and the ALMS Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock. As a consequence of Marco missing practice, the Andretti Green Acura ARX-01b started from last place.

There were some brilliant moments for the team; however, Montagny could only muster a fifth-place LMP2 class finish. So give the guy a chance. I wonder what would happen if Montagny got a little more seat time to learn the intricacies of perhaps the most advanced racing machines on the planet. Franck Montagny is growing more and more comfortable behind the wheel of a sports car should be a bit frightening to the rest of the American Le Mans Series paddock. He was the fastest driver in Thursday's test session for the Acura Sports Car Challenge with a lap of 1:08.827 (118.105 mph) at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Montagny will pair with Raphael Matos, in AGR's Acura ARX-01b, at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend. Matos is a veteran of the Firestone Indy Lights Series and won the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic title. The Frenchman is a quick study having driven the LMP2 car for the first time last week at Mid-Ohio, just days before his first Series race at Lime Rock Park. And while the familiarity with the circuit helps, more and more laps in the Acura are even more beneficial.

Photo courtesy of the American Le Mans Series

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