The Panoz Esperante is returning to American Le Mans Series competition for the full ten-race 2005 season, the team announced today, with the stellar lineup of Bill Auberlen and Robin Liddell in the ...
The Panoz Esperante is returning to American Le Mans Series competition for the full ten-race 2005 season, the team announced today, with the stellar lineup of Bill Auberlen and Robin Liddell in the #50 GTLM car and players to be named later in a #51 challenger, Panoz Motorsports general manager Ed Triolo stated.
With enhanced support from tire maker Pirelli and from chassis development firm Multimatic of Toronto, Canada, Triolo says the ultimate goal for the team in this full season of racing is to gain podium results.
Auberlen, named as lead driver in December of last year is "obviously excited about this program. I drove with Panoz Motorsport a few years ago and they are the nicest team on the planet. I wanted to come back," he acknowledged.
Beginning his fourth season of ALMS competition Liddell, who has extensive Pirelli backing acknowledged he is "quietly confident about the program. I'm already pleasantly surprised by the way the team has attacked issues and improved reliability in the car. The Esperante showed potential at its Mid-Ohio debut and it's very exciting that Panoz is coming back to compete in ALMS as a manufacturer against the Porsches.
"The potential has been shown already," Liddell continued, "that this car can compete and win. GT is the most effective class in the world where we can compete in American Le Mans and Le Mans at such a high level."
Triolo was quick to state the Panoz factory team has two goals in mind for this season: to win races and to sell race cars. One objective obviously feeds on the other and, with a race winning car Panoz can prove their level of support.
"Robin is a great fit for the team," Triolo acknowledged. "His talent, drive to win and experience with the circuits and with Pirelli are major pluses that will give the team an extra edge this season.
"We have no illusions about the effort needed to challenge decades of Porsche racing success but neither are we daunted by it," Triolo declared. "Bottom line - [being a] credible challenger to Porsche equals brand success."
"I'm very happy to be part of this factory team," Liddell asserted, "on both a personal and professional level. I'm pleased to share the driving duties with Bill because I know what he's done. He's one of the best names in North American sports car racing and," he continued, "I've already discovered we complement one another really well."
Both drivers noted the addition of Triolo, a fixture in the upper levels of American sports car racing (particularly with competitor Porsche) has brought the highest level organization and communication to the Panoz Esperante GTLM two-car team.
Working with Multimatic, the team is accelerating new damper technology, Triolo admitted. The technology is currently in use for the Champ Car World Series with Newman/Haas Racing (the current champions) but "this is the first time it's been used in ALMS," Triolo said.
"We still have a fair amount of work to do to optimize our tires and chassis," the general manager stated, as both Auberlen and Liddell rapidly interjected their belief that the damper work with Multimatic has optimized grip over the length of a stint.
Liddell reminded, "The Esperante was a hot, difficult car to drive in 2004 but the team has made a lot of progress, particularly in the area of driver comfort. They've been able to pinpoint small areas and identify where [comfort issues] are coming from. Since Bill got in, there's been tremendous durability growth."
The Panoz Esperante racers will, after the completion of the current Wheels Down Winter Test on the 3.7-mile Sebring circuit will go to Multimatic for 7-post testing prior to completion of its pre-season test program.
The first competition for the Panoz Esperante two-car factory team is the March 16-19 53rd running of the Mobil 12 Hours of Sebring.
"We've been doing a lot of development in the last two months and the Esperante shows great promise," according to Auberlen. "I can't wait until we debut this car and the team. I can't wait to drive those first laps at Sebring; it is one of my favorite tracks in the world and if this car runs as good in the race as it's been in testing, we should have a great shot."