Mario Andretti Given Invitation to Adelaide Race

Le Mans Series founder Don Panoz has issued an invitation to American motorsport legend Mario Andretti to compete in Adelaide's Race of a Thousand Years on New Years Eve this year. Andretti has already agreed to contest the Le Mans 24 Hours...

Le Mans Series founder Don Panoz has issued an invitation to American motorsport legend Mario Andretti to compete in Adelaide's Race of a Thousand Years on New Years Eve this year.

Andretti has already agreed to contest the Le Mans 24 Hours with the Panoz sportscar team this June, and Panoz is hopeful of Mario contesting a handful of other events including Adelaide.

Bestowed the mantel of "Driver of the Century" by Associated Press in the U.S., Mario Andretti actually "retired" from active competition in the Champ car series in the U.S. in 1994.

However, he has continued to enjoy "guest" drives, coming close to winning the Le Mans 24 Hour in 1995 with the French Courage team.

Andretti is the only man in motorsport history to win the Formula One World Championship, the U.S. Champ Car Series, the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500 - victory at Le Mans being one of the only honours the 60 year old veteran is yet to claim.

"Mario is going to drive with us at Le Mans and I have asked him to come and drive in Adelaide as well," Don Panoz said.

"It's not every day you get to sign up a legend to your team, but I can tell you it is a great feeling.

"Mario¹s addition to our driver line up makes us a real force to be reckoned with at Le Mans this year, and I am flattered that he has decided to join the Panoz team who are, after all, relative newcomers to sportscar racing."

Andretti signed with Panoz after testing the car at Road Atlanta in the U.S. recently. He will join Australia¹s David Brabham, ex-Formula One driver Jan Magnussen, American star Johnny O'Connell, Japanese driver Hiroki Katoh and Pierre-Henri Raphane at Le Mans.

Andretti believes he can be competitive at Le Mans despite his age.

"I feel comfortable at Le Mans and believe I can go there and be competitive because I know the place so well," Andretti recently told British magazine, Autosport.

"I want to win, but I will be doing it first and foremost because I love driving and I love driving over there at Le Mans."

After testing the car for 25 laps recently, he said: "I really liked this car - it was fun to drive and very responsive to any changes we made even though it was getting difficult to keep any heat in the tires due to the cold weather.

"The Panoz team works well together and I felt very comfortable with everyone on first acquaintance.

"More importantly they are all really committed to success at Le Mans.

"Victory at Le Mans is something which has so far eluded me but I am confident that Don will provide me with the right package to be able to achieve that goal."

Paul Ryan ryan@panoz.com.au

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series ALMS

User photos

pkphotography

pkphotography

1 photos
MatheRacing

MatheRacing

10 photos
JLK

JLK

17 photos
jb_ecker

jb_ecker

1 photos
Rustyn90

Rustyn90

317 photos
pclracephoto

pclracephoto

67 photos
imtcory

imtcory

50 photos
Upload photo