The Panoz "Batmobile" GTP car made strong improvement in qualifying today, recording a time that will place it on the fourth row of the grid for tomorrow's inaugural Le Mans 1000km.

Panoz drivers David Saelens and Olivier Beretta shared the Panoz Coupe in the two qualifying sessions - Saelens driving the first session and Beretta taking over in the afternoon.

Returning to the scene of his 1998 French Formula 3 Championship win, Saelens recorded a fastest time of 1 minute, 31.821 seconds.

After making additional changes between the sessions, Beretta improved in the afternoon qualifying session to stop the clocks at 1 minute, 31.480 seconds.

Beretta's time put the Panoz in position eight on the grid in the return for the Coupe which has not competed since 1998.

Audi driver Tom Kristensen set the pole in the Team Goh Audi R8 he is sharing with Japanese driver Seiji Ara.

This weekend's Le Mans 1000km is the debut race for the new Le Mans Endurance Series - a new championship which will stage four races in Europe in 2004.

Starting at 12.00noon tomorrow, the race is being run on the Le Mans Bugatti circuit, the 4.18km circuit which also annually hosts the MotoGP French Grand Prix.


"We are still learning a lot with this car because although it is an old design, it is very new for us and includes all the updates that we have been running on the LMP900 car.

"Today went very well and we have learned a great deal. We have some more changes to try in the warm-up tomorrow but we are definitely working in the right direction in trying to get rid of some understeer.

"David drove the first qualifying session and did a great job and we will wait and see what happens tomorrow.

"They are expecting a bit of rain so that could make things very interesting over 1000km."


"Our progress is certainly moving in the right direction and Oli and our guys have been doing a great job.

"I drove in the first qualifying session but spent most of the time working on set-up rather than going for a time.

"Qualifying is important, but not as important as having a good race set-up for tomorrow's race.

"Our times are pretty competitive and I think we will have a very good race car for tomorrow.

"Qualifying on the fourth row is a good result and the reaction from the fans this weekend to seeing this car back at Le Mans has been fantastic."