Herta dumped by Andretti Green Racing Valencia, California's Bryan Herta did everything that was asked of him at Andretti Green Racing, and even surprised a few with some unexpected wins. But Herta was the one who was surprised on Thursday when he was informed that he was being replaced on the Andretti Green Racing American Le Mans Series team with driver Franck Montagny, a Frenchman with limited Formula One and road racing experience.
Herta will not be driving for Andretti Green Racing in the next American Le Mans Series race at Lime Rock Park at Lakeville, Conn., on July 12. Montagny is the new primary driver of the team's No. 26 Acura-powered entry in the American Le Mans Series and will be teamed with Marco Andretti, son of team co-owner Michael Andretti, in the race at Lime Rock Park. Herta is not in Andretti Green's plans for future races, but the team said in a release that a variety of drivers will team with Montagny for the final seven races of the American Le Mans Series season.
"It was a complete shock to me," said Herta, a Hart High of Newhall graduate. "I'm at a bit of a loss for words. It's their sandbox. "Right now it's all kind of a bit of a surprise. I'm not going to jump at something. I want to see what happens."
Herta started his career with Andretti Green Racing when Dario Franchitti was injured in a race accident in 2003. Herta took over Franchitti's car while Franchitti recovered from his injuries. In his third race with the team, and his third race in the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series, Herta won at Kansas Speedway.
The following year Andretti Green Racing added another car to its team for Herta. The four-car team was the biggest in the IRL and one of the elite teams in the series. He won again for Andretti Green Racing in 2005 at Michigan International Speedway.
He made three Indianapolis 500 starts for Andretti Green, with a career-best third-place finish in 2005. Before the start of the 2006 season, Andretti Green Racing signed Danica Patrick as one of its drivers. To make room for Patrick, Herta was asked to leave the IRL team and drive for the American Le Mans Series team. Herta willingly left Indy cars for the team's Acura in the sports cars series and won the first race he ran. Teamed with Tony Kanaan and Franchitti, the Andretti Green Racing American Le Mans Series team won the 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida in 2006. It was the first win for Acura, which made its debut in the series that year.
Herta said he was not happy with the way the team dismissed him from his driving duties after all he accomplished. "I don't think it's very good treatment in return," he said.
Montagny has made seven Formula One starts, all in 2006 with Super Aguri, and has been a test driver for the Renault, Jordan and Toyota teams in Formula One. He was third in the 24 Hours of Le Mans earlier this month in France and has three top-five finishes in his past three starts in the endurance race. He has one IndyCar Series start, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in April, when he was the runner-up to Will Power.
"I'm very excited to join Andretti Green Racing and the XM Acura program," Montagny said. "I am looking forward to working with the team in the very near future and hoping to get off to a good start at Lime Rock. I know how competitive the American Le Mans Series is and know how challenging this will be, but I believe I am ready for it. I am eager to get started."
Herta and Christian Fittipaldi shared driving duties in the team's Acura for the first four races of the American Le Mans Series season. Marco Andretti drove with Herta and Fittipaldi in the 12 Hours of Sebring to start the season. Herta and Fittipaldi were in the car for the American Le Mans Series race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
"Making a change in the middle of the season isn't something you enjoy, and I think it's even tougher in this case because we're talking about Bryan and Christian," Michael Andretti said. "Bryan has done everything we've ever asked him to do since he joined Andretti Green in 2003, including helping us win the 12 Hours of Sebring in our first ALMS start last year. Christian joined us this year and wanted to win as badly as we did. We will always appreciate the effort that both Bryan and Christian gave to the team." LA Daily News
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