What follows is the third of four interviews we did during the Generac 500 at Road America. Throughout the four interviews you will find some common and some unique questions allowing you to compare and contrast the drivers in the ALMS LMP1 and LMP2 classes.
Mecca of Speed: You joined Andretti Green Racing mid-season and have been strong from the start. Does the Acura ARX-01b have a strong base setup, or is it easy to adjust to your driving style?
Franck Montagny: I don’t know. The team is doing a very good job, which makes things easier from my perspective. This weekend I have a very good teammate (James Rossiter) and I’m very pleased with his performance. We have been working with the crew and engineers for a month now and have been developing a better car with each additional race.
Mecca of Speed: The event this weekend is longer then the standard two hour forty-five minute sprint race, it’s four hours starting in daylight and ending at night. Is the team using this race as any type of preparation for the Petit Le Mans?
Franck Montagny: We are taking the races as they come. I don’t have much experience here in the ALMS and we are still learning as a team, how we work with each other. We come to each track and do our best to improve at each race.
Mecca of Speed: Did you have any experience working with Andretti Green before you got the offer to join their ALMS team?
Franck Montagny: The team was struggling a little bit at the beginning of the year. They called me after Le Mans and offered me an opportunity to drive. I thought it was a good opportunity to see a bit of America. The ALMS is an important series to be in and this is an opportunity to drive for one of the most competitive teams in America.
Mecca of Speed: From your limited time this weekend, what is your impression of Road America?
Franck Montagny: I would say it’s a pretty good circuit. Coming from Lime Rock and Mid-Ohio which are tighter circuits, it’s good to be here. You can ask anyone who has been on the track or in the paddock, this place is very nice.
Mecca of Speed: Coming from Europe what are some of the circuits you have a preference for?
Franck Montagny: Like everyone I like Spa, and Barcelona in the south of Spain. That is a track I really like, it’s fast and large, like an old fashioned track, really fun to drive.
Mecca of Speed: How does the Acura ARX-01b compare to your open wheel experience in Formula One?
Franck Montagny: It’s really different. It’s not the same horsepower, chassis or the same way to work. Here we are working on a four-hour race strategy, not an hour or an hour and a half race.
It’s really different, but I’ve had fun in both formulas and that is what is important.
Mecca of Speed: You are with the team for the remainder of the season, what are the team goals for the remainder of 2008?
Franck Montagny: Win races! We are not here to finish six or fifth, we are here to finish on the podium and win races.
Mecca of Speed: The LMP2 class is highly competitive with continual development, is that also the case with Andretti Green Racing?
Franck Montagny: Yes, I think that is just the normal cycle in racing. With Acura it’s not like with a private team, if you want to win you have to improve your car race after race. It’s just logical to have continual development, to be competitive and be able to win races.
Mecca of Speed: Some other series are more restrictive in their rules and regulations.
Franck Montagny: Yes, but this is the ALMS. There is a lot a factory support in this series. Porsche, Ferrari, Acura and Audi are all here to win and are very professional about it. They work before the race, after the race and during the race. Whatever it takes to have the most competitive car the top factory teams will do to win.
You have to improve the car bit by bit. New parts, new mechanics, new engines, that’s the way it is at this level of racing.
Mecca of Speed: When you were making the climb up the support series, what driver did you idolize?
Franck Montagny: No one, I don’t care about the past. I’m here to racing and having fun. Someone may have won a championship ten times and that’s very good for them, but this is my life and my drive. I do thing my way.
Mecca of Speed: You have been teamed with different drivers this season. Do you find drivers speak the same language regardless of the series?
Franck Montagny: I came to the team in the middle of the season and was not expected to be very strong. You come in as a driver and have your own way of working and the team has their way of working. The team has been working with other drivers; I have been working with other engineers. You have to build up a lot of relationships within the team and that takes time.
Getting a new co-driver at every race doesn’t upset me that much. We are still working on becoming a team. We are continually working by getting more feedback from each other and understanding each other.
My engineer is very easy to work with. He came from the same factory I did in Formula One.
Mecca of Speed: What is your personal streetcar?
Franck Montagny: 1967 Ford Mustang GT 500.
Mecca of Speed: Thank you and good luck on the rest of the season.
Franck Montagny: Thank you.
Content credit Franck Montagny and John Vatne. Photo credit Scott Rohloff.