Laguna Seca: JML Team Panoz preview

JML Team Panoz 21-year-old young guns Gunnar Jeannette and Benjamin Leuenberger today tried out horsepower of a different kind in preparation for this weekend's round of the 2003 American Le Mans Series at Mazda Raceway, Laguna Seca. The young...

JML Team Panoz 21-year-old young guns Gunnar Jeannette and Benjamin Leuenberger today tried out horsepower of a different kind in preparation for this weekend's round of the 2003 American Le Mans Series at Mazda Raceway, Laguna Seca.

The young duo explored the local Monterey area on horseback, taking part in the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center's beach trail ride.

While today Jeannette and Leuenberger enjoyed a leisurely pace as they viewed some of the famous fairways of Pebble Beach's many golf courses, tomorrow the pair will begin their assault on round seven of the 2003 ALMS Championship - taking aim at their first podium.

Teammates Olivier Beretta and David Saelens have recorded three consecutive podium finishes and both the #10 and #11 Panoz LMP-01 squads now are set to challenge for Laguna glory.

Beretta previously recorded the closest finish in ALMS history at Laguna Seca when he won the GTS class in 2000 with Karl Wendlinger by .001 of a second in their Dodge Viper over the Corvette of Ron Fellows and Andy Pilgrim.

Saelens returns to the cockpit of the Panoz this weekend after taking part in Minardi's "Thunder at the Rock" event in Rockingham in the UK. The Belgian drove one of the Minardi's Formula One two-seater racecars alongside current F1 pilots, Jos Verstappen and Nicolas Kiesa.

Next week he will drive in a round of the Belgian Rally Championship with his future father-in-law in the co-driver's seat. It will be Saelens' first ever attempt at a rally.

Leuenberger has also been busy in recent weeks, competing in his first oval race last week - a NASCAR-style truck race at Hickory, North Carolina.

Sunday's 2 hour, 45 minute race kicks off at 12 noon on Sunday and is broadcast on NBC.

OLIVIER BERETTA

"Laguna Seca has been pretty kind to me in the past.

"I first came here to watch a CART race in 1995, then did my first race here in the FIA GT Championship in 1997.

"This is one of the best venues in the championship and David and I will certainly be out to continue our podium run - hopefully moving to the top step this time around.

"Michelin has come up with some tire combinations which has really suited the car lately and greatly helped reduce our understeer.

"The entire team is very confident because the car has been extremely strong here in the past."

GUNNAR JEANNETTE

"Today was a great way to relax with some horsepower of a different kind. This is certainly a beautiful part of the world and a real highlight of the race calendar.

"The Panoz has always been pretty strong at Laguna Seca and it is one of the coolest tracks in the country.

"I can't wait for this weekend because I have only had the chance to race here once before.

"I actually ended up with a victory in the LMP675 class when I raced here last time in 2000 so it would be great to get back on the podium.

"Ben and I did a good job together at Road America but we were pretty unlucky to have a battery problem."

DAVID SAELENS

"Oli and I have three podiums in a row and now the target is to go for the win.

"The car has been very strong in the past few races and I am confident we can challenge very strongly again.

"I have seen the track on television a lot, but this will be my first visit here.

"I am really looking forward to trying the corkscrew for the first time - it is one of the most famous corners in the world.

"It certainly looks a lot like a European-style circuit which should suit our car well.

"I am in the middle of a pretty interesting three weeks. A Formula One two-seater last weekend, the Panoz this week and my first ever rally next weekend - that will be very different."

BEN LEUENBERGER

"I have only ridden a horse once before when I was young and I actually got thrown off, so today was certainly a lot more fun.

"This weekend is going to be really interesting because I have done hundreds of laps at Laguna Seca on my Playstation before but this will be the first time I have driven here for real.

"At least I know which way to go when I leave the pits. It will be interesting to see what the track is like for real compared to the computer game.

"Our aim is certainly to end up on the podium. Gunnar and I are working well together and I am sure the #11 Panoz will be very competitive."

-pmg-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Jos Verstappen , Nicolas Kiesa , David Saelens , Karl Wendlinger , Ron Fellows , Gunnar Jeannette , Olivier Beretta