So Franck Montagny will be racing for AGR at Sonoma. The logical extension of this deal is a contract for next season replacing Danica as she departs for pastures new.
Something MyNameisIRL suggested recently.
With Simon Pagenaud also strongly tipped to make the jump from the ALMS to IndyCar with Gil de Ferran and Ryan Briscoe deep in a title hunt, it is clear that a sideways move to sportscar racing can be a savvy and fruitful career move.
Ryan Briscoe's tenure with Penske Porsche in the American Le Mans Series was the making of him. His transformation from wild and occasionally fast to fast and occasionally wild to simply fast was due in no small way to how he was handled by Roger Penske and Tim Cindric. His immersion in the slick and ultra-professional environment of Penske Porsche as part of a platoon of drivers allowed him to develop without the pressure and reponsibility of having to do it all by himself every week.
This is something that Marco Andretti should think long and hard about. His career is stalling, if not reversing before our eyes and he appears to be half the driver he was when he entered the series in 2006. Seasoned observers of sportscar racing have seen a side of him and examples of the potential that many of us still believe is there. I wrote about this in the off season when he was struggling to get to grips with A1GP as I found it hard to reconcile this Marco with the one who caused such a stir on his sportscar debut for AGR at Sebring in 2008.
The World Cup of Motorsports has been anything but rich pickings for Marco and Andretti Green Racing through the darkest months. The race in South Africa was the fourth outing for the 21 year old and the fifth for the team with a fortunate third place as their only result of note so far. The lack of speed from the team and the seeming inability of Marco to work around set up issues have done nothing to promote the idea that Marco has a future at the highest levels of global open wheel racing. This is even more puzzling considering his performances for AGR outside the realm of open wheel racing in 2008. John Hindhaugh of the American Le Mans Series Radio Network for one has seen glimpses of his potential:
‘Standing on the outside of turn one at Sebring - I mean it's not like I hadn't seen seriously fast cars through there before, McNish, Brabham, even Kristensen were always impressive through there but the word had gone around the paddock that Marco HAD to be seen. So I dutifully pottered over on the ALMS Radio Network golf cart pulled up and waited... not for long ...as the distinctive howl of the Acura down the back straight told me the boy Andretti was on his way. There it was out of Sunset (turn 17) and on the way toward me, headlights ablaze. Then it was gone! No really just like that, almost before I could take it in.’
Andretti had taken the daunting turn one completely flat out, showing and a commitment and raw speed rarely, if ever, seen at the storied venue.
A further chat with the ALMS safety crew positioned nearby revealed that Marco had ‘been doing that since his first flying lap’. He continued to display this astonishing speed and skill throughout practice and most of the race.
With de Ferran moving to IndyCar and increasing his presence in the ALMS to two enties, this is the perfect time for Marco to move sideways for a season. He should take the opportunity to learn to race and win again in a new and, arguably, less intense environment. Gil de Ferran has proved, with Simon Pagenaud, that he can spot and nurture potential and he would be an ideal mentor for Marco. The team structure would also allow him to make a smooth transition back into IndyCar full time as and when he was ready to do so. It would also allow Marco to still run in the Indy 500 if he so wished.
So come on Marco, surprise us all and make that call! :)