JML Team Panoz 1000km race report

The return of the Panoz "Batmobile" GTP did not go exactly to plan at today's inaugural Le Mans 1000km with a myriad of problems ending the day early for the American marque with an hour to go. Olivier Beretta made a brilliant start to leap...

The return of the Panoz "Batmobile" GTP did not go exactly to plan at today's inaugural Le Mans 1000km with a myriad of problems ending the day early for the American marque with an hour to go.

Olivier Beretta made a brilliant start to leap from eighth on the grid to fifth at the start - dodging a opening lap spinner in the process.

However, with persistent rain falling, Beretta fell victim to a fogged up windscreen on the second lap - misjudging his braking point and running off the circuit.

The car lost four laps in the gravel trap before getting back on track and was not able to fight back from this early set-back.

Although climbing back into the top 12 at one stage, a persistent starter motor problem forced the JML Team Panoz crew to remove the rear bodywork at each pit stop, ensuring further delays.

After Beretta completed an opening double-stint, David Saelens climbed aboard the Panoz GTP only to suffer a spin on intermediates tires.

Fortunately, the Belgian was able to keep the car running as the Panoz now required attention from the crew to restart the car each time.

Saelens switched to Michelin slicks shortly after rejoining the race track after race marshals assisted in removing the car from the gravel trap.

However, the #10 Panoz began to suffer gear shifting problems as well as falling battery voltage due to a faulty alternator.

After several long visits to the pits, the car eventually ran its final lap with an hour to go, completing 126 laps and being classed in 30th position. The team had replaced the battery, but Saelens continued to suffer shifting problems.

The race was won by the Audi R8 of Tom Kristensen and Seiji Ara.

While disappointed with the end result, Panoz founder Don Panoz was proud to see his original racer from 1997 return to the track.

"We brought the old girl out of mothballs, gave her some new underwear and hit the track," Panoz said.

"Unfortunately, she pooped her pants pretty early in the race and we never caught up from there.

"The car was still very fast and I am very proud of Oli and David and all the crew - they have done a fantastic job."

OLIVIER BERETTA

"It is shame the way the year has come to an end, but looking back, the season has been very successful.

"The team really performed remarkably well and David and I had an excellent working relationship.

"It was very tough at the start of the race because the pace lap was slow and there was very little air flowing into the cockpit to help keep the screen clear.

"I really couldn't see a thing in the first couple of laps and just missed my braking point.

"The car hasn't run for four years, but it still showed it was quick enough.

"We improved the car every time we hit the track but things didn't work out on race day."

DAVID SAELENS

"The day started really well in the warm-up in the wet because the changes the team made overnight really improved the balance.

"It was very promising before the start of the race but things didn't quite work out how we planned.

"However, I think it was a very positive weekend and the entire crew worked extremely hard to even get this car built - let alone race it.

"It seems a bit of a shame the season is finished - it seemed to pass by so fast.

"Oli and I had a great run of podium finishes this year and although we didn't finish the year how we would have liked, it can't be Christmas every day - we really can't be unhappy."

-pmg-

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Series LEMANS