Larbre Competition enters Panoz 'Batmobile' for Sebring BRASELTON, Ga. (February 17, 2004) -- The ultra-popular Panoz GTR1 coupe, affectionately known to sports car racing fans as the "Batmobile," will return to competition for two races in the...
Larbre Competition enters Panoz 'Batmobile' for Sebring
BRASELTON, Ga. (February 17, 2004) -- The ultra-popular Panoz GTR1 coupe, affectionately known to sports car racing fans as the "Batmobile," will return to competition for two races in the experienced and capable hands of the championship-winning French racing team Larbre Competition.
The Larbre team will make its racing debut with the Panoz GTR1 in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the opening race of the 2004 American Le Mans Series season, Mar. 17-20 at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway. Drivers for the team will be Christophe Bouchut, Jean-Luc Blanchemain and Roland Berville, all of France. The team also plans to race the Panoz in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France June 12-13.
"We are very pleased to be able to compete at Sebring with the Panoz GTR1," said Jack Leconte, owner of Larbre Competition. "The history of the car is very well-known as is the popularity it has achieved with race fans in Europe and in America. With the advances that have been made with both the car and the Elan Power engine, we feel that the car has the potential to achieve very good results in an endurance race and we look forward to racing it."
The Panoz GTR1 "Batmobile" was an enormous crowd favorite and formed the basic platform of the Panoz LMP-01 that raced in the American Le Mans Series from 1999 through 2003. The GTR1 raced in 1997 and 1998 before being converted to Le Mans Prototype spec for the 1999 season. Originally run in what at the time was called the GT1 class, the Panoz has been upgraded and homologated and will compete at Sebring and Le Mans in the LMP1 class, racing against such cars as the Audi R8 and Lola-MG.
After a competition hiatus since 1998, the Panoz GTR1 was brought out of retirement by owner Don Panoz and competed in last November's inaugural Le Mans Endurance Series event at the Le Mans Bugatti circuit.
"When we raced the car at Le Mans last year, we hoped that someone would take notice and want to do some more races with the car," said Panoz, who has leased the car to Larbre and is not involved in the Sebring entry. "It's gratifying that a racing team with the credentials of Larbre saw that the old girl still has a lot of potential and wanted to race her again. The Panoz has a lot of loyal supporters and I'm sure they will be very happy to hear that the car will be racing at Sebring."
Larbre Competition, which most recently has raced Chrysler Vipers in selected endurance races and in the FIA GT Series, has a successful history dating back to 1993 when it won the GT class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team won the GT class at Le Mans again in 1994 as well as taking GTS class honors in the 24 Hours of Daytona.
In recent years, Larbre Competition won team and driver championships in the FIA GT Series three straight years beginning in 2000. Larbre won the Spa 24-hour event in 2001 and 2002 and finished third in the GTS class with a Viper at Sebring in 2002, the last time it raced in America's oldest sports car event.
Bouchut, who has raced with Larbre Competition since 1995, is a three-time driving champion in FIA GT racing. In addition, he has two wins in the Spa 24 Hours and one class win in both the Le Mans and Daytona 24-hour races. Bouchut has also won three Porsche Carrera Cup championships and was the 1991 French Formula 3 champion.
Berville's racing resume includes Porsche Carrera Cup competition from 1995 through 2003, as well as Porsche Supercup action in 2001. In addition, he raced in the FFSA GT Championship from 1997 through 2001.
Blanchemain raced Historic cars in 2000, also competing in the Spa 24-hour event, and competed in the 2002 French Porsche Carrera Cup. His 2003 season included finishing second overall in the French GT Championship, winning three times in a Viper.