Trois-Rivieres: JML Team Panoz race report

JML Team Panoz grabbed its first podium position of 2003 with a stunning drive by Olivier Beretta and David Saelens at Trois Riveres today. The Braselton, Georgia-based team completed an outstanding day with Gunnar Jeannette and Scott Maxwell ...

JML Team Panoz grabbed its first podium position of 2003 with a stunning drive by Olivier Beretta and David Saelens at Trois Riveres today.

The Braselton, Georgia-based team completed an outstanding day with Gunnar Jeannette and Scott Maxwell fighting back to grab fourth place in the LMP900 class and 6th position overall.

The result by the #10 car however, did not come without a pre-race fright. Beretta experienced gear shifting problems exiting the pits prior the race and the JML team worked frantically during the pre-race ceremonies on the grid to effect repairs.

Beretta made a strong start from position four on the grid and took over third place at mid-race distance following the demise of the MG Lola of James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger.

After completing a two-hour double-stint on a single set of Michelin tires, the two-time ALMS GTS champion handed over to Saelens who drove faultlessly to the finish.

Jeannette slotted into fifth position off the start in the #11 Panoz but struck drama after 45 minutes. The #11 Panoz returned to the pits with a damaged front splitter after the young star made slight contact with the wall.

He was forced to brake suddenly while passing a slower car after yellow flags were waived while entering a corner. The Panoz locked the rear tires under brakes and slewed sideways, hitting the wall.

Fast repairs by the Panoz squad quickly put the car back out on circuit and Jeannette and Maxwell were able to complete a fourth place class finish.

In a race of attrition, Maxwell was closing on the two GTS Corvettes to challenge for 4th outright at the end of the three hour race.

The podium finish today was the first for a Panoz car in the ALMS since Mid Ohio last year and the best combined result by the JML team for 2003. The American Le Mans Series returns to Canada in two weeks time for round five of the championship at Mosport, near Toronto.

OLIVIER BERETTA

"It was a great day for us. All week has been good but we had a bit of a fright before the start when our gear selection started playing up again. The mechanics did an excellent job to get the car fixed just before the start.

"The car was not perfect, but at least we were able to change gear. David did a super job and I am very happy for the team.

"This is out first podium of the year and after we had good 5th places at Sebring and Le Mans - things are progressing well.

"Catching the Audis will be very tough because they are extremely fast but maybe at Mosport there might be a little rain which would be to our advantage."

DAVID SAELENS

"The race was great for us. The team did really well and Olivier drove superbly at the start - all I had to do was bring the car home.

"The changes we made to the car during the week worked really well. The entire team - the mechanics, the engineers, everybody did an outstanding job here.

"Oli was able to do a double stint at the start on the Michelins which were very consistent and that really set up the result. I am really happy to get my first podium finish in the American Le Mans Series."

GUNNAR JEANNETTE

"We are pretty pleased to finish 4th in the LMP900 class, especially after a pretty tough day.

"I locked the brakes at one stage and tagged the wall with the front splitter which hurt our pace and put us a couple of laps down.

"I was passing a slower car when the yellow flags came out and I had to pull up a little earlier, locked the rear tires and hit the wall on the way in.

"It was a little strange to drive after that, but Scott did a great job to bring the car home. Hopefully we can challenge for a podium at Mosport."

SCOTT MAXWELL

"We were a bit unlucky with what happened to Gunnar and it took me a couple of laps to get used to the car.

"The damaged splitter was actually creating a bit of lift on the straights and it took a little while to get used to.

"Finishing 4th in class was a good comeback, although I would have liked to have beaten the Corvette's home and got 4th outright as well.

"However, the car is pretty straight and I can't wait to get to my home track at Mosport in two weeks time."

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Series ALMS
Drivers David Saelens , Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Scott Maxwell , Gunnar Jeannette , Olivier Beretta