For this exceptional edition of the "24 Heures" which celebrates the 80th anniversary of the creation of the race, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, Fran?ois Fillon - Minister of Employment, Roland du Luart - President of the Sarthe County Council, and Jean-Claude Boulard - Mayor of Mans, have jointly invited Mr. Donald Panoz to give the start to the 71st race of the "24 Heures du Mans".
Donald Panoz thus contributes in this way towards boosting the image and prestige of the "24 Heures", and is a major partner of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest for the promotion of the "24 Heures du Mans".
The founding President of the ALMS has written to Michel Cosson, President of the A.C.O., to confirm that he is delighted to accept the invitation: "It has been a great pleasure to work with the A.C.O. for the past several years and I look forward to a continued long and successful relationship between the A.C.O. and the ALMS. It is quite an honor to be selected as your event grand marshal and I am anxiously awaiting the race next month."
Donald Panoz becomes the sixth American personality to appear on the "24 Heures" roll-call of guests of honour, after Mr. Herrington, U.S. Ambassador, in 1957, the car manufacturer, Henry Ford II, in 1966, the actor and film director, Steve McQueen, in 1971, Mr. Bill France Sr. in 1976 and Mr. Bill Campbell, Mayor of Atlanta, in 1998.
He succeeds the French film director, Luc Besson, who was invited to give the start to the 2002 race