JML Team Panoz preliminary practice preview

JML Team Panoz has arrived in Le Mans for this weekend's Preliminary Practice day with it sights firmly set on continuing the team's strong form from the 12 Hours of Sebring. The new privateer Panoz outfit surprised many with its impressive run...

JML Team Panoz has arrived in Le Mans for this weekend's Preliminary Practice day with it sights firmly set on continuing the team's strong form from the 12 Hours of Sebring.

The new privateer Panoz outfit surprised many with its impressive run in the opening round of the 2003 American Le Mans Series with both cars finishing in the top 10 and the lead car of Olivier Beretta, Gunnar Jeannette and Max Papis taking 5th place - the best Sebring finish in the ALMS for the Panoz marque.

Since the March Sebring event, the team has been boosted by the recruit of Belgian Formula 3000 ace David Saelens who will share the #12 Panoz LMP-01 with Swiss Benjamin Leuenberger and former Le Mans 24 Hour LMP675 winner, Scott Maxwell (Canada).

Beretta (Monaco), Jeannette (USA) and Papis (Italy) will again team up aboard the #11 car.

The youngest man ever to finish the event, Jeannette is eagerly awaiting the chance to contest his fourth Le Mans 24 Hour. The young American star will celebrate his 21st birthday on the Monday following Sunday's test day.

"It is always great to come back to Le Mans and drive this circuit - this race is the reason why I've always dreamed of racing sportscars," Jeannette said.

"The entire team had a great run in Sebring and I am really looking forward to driving with Olivier and Max again.

"Together we made a pretty strong combination at Sebring and our game plan here is to concentrate on our own race and make sure we get home at the finish.

"The test day will give us some vital data in preparation for the race."

Beretta is set to contest his eighth Le Mans 24 Hour and his first aboard a Panoz. A former winner of the event for ORECA in the GTS class aboard a Dodge Viper, the Monte Carlo resident believes the Le Mans circuit offers a complete package for a race driver.

"Le Mans is a very special place and I always welcome the opportunity to drive there," Beretta said.

"The track has everything - it has very fast straights, fast corners, medium corners, slow corners - everything in one track.

"Hopefully Sunday the weather will be fine because it is important to collect as much information as we can. During the week of the race, you don't get a lot of time, so this weekend is a key element of the preparation.

"Sebring was a great result for the team, but Le Mans is a very different challenge and everybody is very motivated to do well."

For Max Papis, the Le Mans Preliminary Practice is another part of a busy period for the versatile Italian. He recently tested a Winston Cup car for Ray Evernham and is also confident of securing of ride in this year's Indianpolis 500. Papis will head to Indianapolis straight after Sunday's test day.

"I am really looking forward to getting back to Le Mans because I had good success the last time I ran here." Papis said.

"Le Mans has such a great atmosphere, it is one of the greatest and most charasmatic races in the world. I really fell in love with the place.

"I will never forget last time I was here there was a spectator with an Italian flag who would wave if furiously everytime I went by.

"It is just an awsome racetrack and I really love tradition. This place has so much history - it is great to be back.

"Our team came out pretty strongly at Sebring but we know the opposition will be even tougher here. Our reliability and steady heads is going to be our secret to success here."

-pmg-

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About this article
Series Le Mans
Drivers David Saelens , Max Papis , Scott Maxwell , Ray Evernham , Benjamin Leuenberger , Olivier Beretta