The "Batmobile" enjoys flawless shakedown for Le Mans 1000km
JML Team Panoz has completed the final shakedown of the newly badged Panoz GTP coupe in preparation for the forthcoming Le Mans 1000km on the Bugatti circuit on November 9.
Olivier Beretta and David Saelens both got the chance to sample the car this week which is being pressed into service for the first time since 1998.
Having completed six consecutive podium finishes aboard the Panoz LMP-01 roadster in this year's American Le Mans Series, the Euro duo now have their sights set on continuing that run at the new Le Mans event.
The car is similar to the original Panoz GTR which ran to the GT1 specifications of the time.
Modifications made to the Panoz LMP-01 last year including a new lighter gearbox and paddle shift system have been incorporated into the coupe for the first time.
Like the 1998 version, the new GTP class car will run on Michelin tires - the brand which led every lap of the 2003 Le Mans 24 Hour.
The car will be powered by a similar Elan Power Products engine as used by the JML Team Panoz squad throughout 2003. However, it will enjoy additional horsepower thanks to the larger restrictors used in the GTP class.
Both the Panoz GTR (now called Panoz GTP) and the Panoz LMP-01 are unique in international sportscar racing.
Not only are they the only front-engined prototype style car in the sport, but the seven-year-old GTR design is the only car of its type which is still competing today despite also being eligible for historic sportscar competition in the US!
The car will leave for France next week in preparation for the 1000km race - a new event which acts as an opener for the new Le Mans Endurance Series which will be raced in Europe in 2004.
"The car nearly has the same sensation just with a roof. So it's a little different from what I have been used to driving all year.
"I think it has good potential and it was actually better on slow corners. For the first test I was very happy.
"I was always a fan of this car when it last ran because it has so much character in the design and it is now a great opportunity to drive it.
"The fans will certainly love seeing this car back on track at Le Mans.
"The weather at Le Mans in November could be very interesting. There will be a very good chance of rain -- it could be wet, dry or cold .... the situation with the weather could be a bit of a mess.
"So that will make it a perfect endurance race!"
"The car was certainly very different at the start when we ran it at Road Atlanta, but we quickly dialed out the bugs and I think it should be a pretty strong package at Le Mans.
"The car felt really strong and I really can't wait to get to France. I haven't raced with a roof over my head since running for Mercedes in the DTM in 2001.
"However, I think the package should be pretty good for the Bugatti circuit.
"It has a lot of slow corners where the torque of the Elan engine will be very important.
"I am really looking forward to going back and racing on the Bugatti because that is where I clinched the French Formula 3 championship in 1998."