VISTEON PANOZ RACING TAKES GT1 WIN AT LAGUNA SECA WALLACE AND BRABHAM SHARE DRIVER CHAMPIONSHIP HONORS
MONTEREY, CA, October 24 -- Despite the rain and fog, the Visteon Panoz Racing team took first in GT1 and second and third overall in the Visa World Sports Car Championships. David Brabham and Andy Wallace clinched the 1998 GT1 driver championship with their second place finish, just ahead of championship contender, Eric Bernard.
"It's because of the guys on the crew that we were able to finish this race. I really need to thank them," praised Wallace. "We've all endured a fairly long season."
The race began under less than ideal conditions, but the Visteon Panoz GTR-1 cars started strong. Wallace took the first stint in the #4 car and lead the field for the first half hour when Johnny O'Connell (in the #5) passed and captured the lead. The #4 car held second. The drivers maintained these positions through a full-course caution (due to fog) after which the Visteon Panoz crews readied for fuel, new tires and a driver change.
The choice to put on slicks during the driver change proved to benefit the #4 car in the long run. Although Brabham got a slow start at first, once the tires heated up he was able to move up the field and reach second. Bernard, in the #5, stayed on rain tires for most of the race -- pitting near race end to replace them with slicks.
"We had a good race," Bernard commented. "If I could do it over again, I would have gotten into the slicks earlier. The drivers' championship competition was really close (by four points). I would have loved to win the title -- but I'm happy for Andy and David just the same."
Team manager Tony Dowe couldn't wipe the smile from his face at race finish. "We had a good day," he said. "To finish the season this way is wonderful. I'm happy for Don Panoz and the whole team."
The Visteon Panoz Racing team closes the year with manufacturer, team and the top-four places in drivers' championship points in the GT1 class -- along with an overall win in Sebring just weeks ago. The team also secured the USRRC team championship at Watkins Glen.
David Brabham and Eric Bernard will finish up their racing season by sharing driving duties in the Dams Panoz GTR-1, which starts fourth in the FIA GT event tomorrow afternoon.