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Franck Montagny - a passion for driving, a passion for life 26 Jun 2007

Franck Montagny (FRA) Toyota TF107 Test Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 12 May 2007 Franck Montagny (FRA), Toyota TF107. Formula One Testing, Paul Ricard, France, Day Four, Friday 18 May 2007. World © Patching/Sutton Franck Montagny (FRA) Toyota Third Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Spanish Grand Prix, Preparations, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 10 May 2007 Franck Montagny (FRA) Toyota Test Driver. F1 Testing, Day Three, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Friday, 24 February 2007. World © Hartley/Sutton

Whether it is driving a Formula One car at the limit, keeping up with the latest trends in fashion-conscious Barcelona or simply having fun with big boys’ toys, Toyota third driver Franck Montagny approaches everything with his own brand of enthusiasm.

“I am happy with my life as it is, I am not going to change it,” says the 29 year-old Frenchman, who is in his first season with the Japanese team.

Montagny has brought his own unique style to the team, with his friendly attitude mixed with dedication to his craft and that is hardly surprising from a driver who grew up surrounded by all things car-related in the south of France. His father Jean, now 55 and the owner of a jet ski and buggy rental service, shaped a young Montagny’s outlook on life with his own rallying exploits, helped always by mother Michelle.

“I think it is a family affair,” Montagny explains to the Toyota press office. “My father was real crazy about motorsport, he was a rally man and my mother followed it all the time. I had no choice! My father was a car salesman and he also raced in amateur rallying. He did well, he raced well and I was always with him. When I was young, I was always in the garage, with the tyres, the fuel and all that stuff from a very young age.

“I was three or four years-old when he was competing so I was too young to help but I went all the time with my mother. She would take care of me and the crew; they were basically his friends who went rallying with him.”

That early exposure to motorsport helped shape Montagny’s future career, but his decision to take up racing was very much his own choice.

“When you have good parents they don’t push you too much, they respect your choice but they make you also make your choice,” the Frenchman explains. “They don’t take the decisions for you, they make you decide and that is not easy when you are a young kid. They are always there but in the background. In case I make a mistake or a wrong step they will be there to support me or change things, that is really good.”

Even his hobbies are shared with his parents and Montagny shares his love of all things fast with his father on the south coast of France, joining him in buggy driving across the sand dunes, jet skiing over the waves or even his latest passion - kite surfing.

“I just recently discovered kite surfing and I think I am going to spend most of my summer doing kite surfing because it’s really cool,” Montagny reveals. “It’s a new game - I am like a little boy and I like all those kind of games where you feel the power of the machine.”

But there is a serious element to Montagny’s outdoor exploits and he is convinced the physical and mental demands of his off-road racing, particularly riding motocross bikes, help him on track as a Formula One driver.

“For sure it is very complimentary to motor racing,” he said. ”It is very good for my reflexes because the ground is not stable, it is always moving. There are rocks, sand everything. It is good for reaction time, reflexes and strength.”

Montagny’s other passion is his hair salon in Barcelona, which he and an associate bought two years ago. It not only offers the best haircut in town, it also showcases the latest trends in fashion, art, photography and music.

The Fusion salon, close to the world famous Sagrada Familia cathedral, opens its doors every Thursday evening for a very special party where guests can sample the latest fashions while enjoying the best sounds in one of Europe’s most vibrant cities.

“The name comes from the style of the place - it’s all about fusion,” says Montagny of the business. “I don’t know much about hairdressing but I love music and clothes and we try to help young clothes designers and artists in Barcelona. We try to mix it up whenever we want - there are no rules so we show some photography exhibitions, some paintings, some clothes, whatever we want.

“At the beginning it was only a hairdressers and then we did a bit of art and photos. Now we have different exhibitions of clothing from international designers inside, some sunglasses, but in three months maybe we change again - it depends.”

As well as keeping his finger on the pulse of European style, Montagny has one extra reason to enjoy Fusion: “I always get my hair cut at Fusion - I bought the place so it’s better to go when it’s free!”

With his home in Switzerland, his business in Spain and his whirlwind Formula One travel schedule, Montagny gets little time to visit his native France, so this weekend’s French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours is a good excuse.

“I like to be back in France because I am never in France, maybe I spend 10 or 15 days a year in France - I am always happy to go back there and see some friends,” he adds. “I like the circuit. It is one of the few circuits where there are very fast chicanes, downhill, uphill, long and quick corners.

“The speed of the car through the corners, you can feel that there. Maybe because it is France also, but I like it. I used to race quite a lot there and I used to win quite a lot there as well! I know it is not the most popular venue, most people say they don’t like it but I guess it is not because of the track but because of everything around, hotels, access and facilities. I understand but the circuit by itself, just for driving, is interesting.”

“I am already happy about what I have got. I am driving one of the most beautiful cars in the world. You have to be conscious that there are only 25 or so people on earth who can do this job. I am thankful for that.”

A positive outlook as always from Toyota’s very own flying Frenchman, who is living life to the full in his first season as the team’s third driver.