June 12, 2000 Le Mans, France - MBD Sportscars' #19 Panoz-Mugen passed yesterday's Scrutineering Session, held in the shadow of Le Mans' Place des Jacobins, with flying colors. The heavily attended event, by both fans and media alike, signaled a start to this week's race preparations and served as a catalyst for the color and pageantry that is the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
It's comes as no surprise to the MBD drivers and crew that many involved in motorsports are looking at MBD Sporstcar and their Panoz-Mugen with a critical eye -- yet hoping for the team's success at the same time.
Pleased with the seat time the drivers of the #19 Panoz-Mugen got at the Preliminary Practice Session in May -- yet somewhat surprised at the 20+ second gap between them and the class leaders -- the MBD team literally rolled up their sleeves and went to work. And then they worked some more. And they're still working. And working hard.
Piloting the teams single effort for the race this weekend will be Venezuela's Milka Duno, Canada's John Graham and Belgium's Didier de Radigues.
"As far as the drivers are concerned, they've gotten a lot more confident since last year, especially Milka, because last year was her first time here -- and this race is pretty tough for anyone, even more so for someone's first time," says Race Director Vic Elford. "So she got her feet a little wet last year -- unfortunately literally speaking -- with all the rain during the 2001 race. But she is now comfortable with this track, and she's already comfortable with the car. Now as far as the car is concerned, Larry Holt and Multimatic have been doing an awful lot of good work on the chassis. Mugen is working very hard on the engine -- just to give you an idea, we actually have no less than six Mugen engineers with the team for this race. They are making a lot of progress with the engine, both on power and reliability. When we were here in May we completed over 500 miles without any major problems at all. Each of the drivers got a double stint in the car during the test session so they're all feeling very comfortable."
Since the test session, Multimatic has made considerable progress on the car's aerodynamics, while Mugen has generated increased speed from the power plant. It's generally believed that the car's straight line speed will have increased considerably. The team hopes to not only finish the race, but to finish well. The drivers are capable of it, and the car is getting more and more capable of it each day.
"I'm anxious for the first practice session tomorrow to see the car's progress since May," says Didier de Radigues. "The team has been working very, very, very hard. I've seen what they've done on the car and they improved on a lot of little things - and on the car overall as well. I know that the gap between us and the leaders was big back in May and I know that we're not ready to make pole position -- unfortunately. I know that is not a realistic goal at this time, but more than anything I know the team has completed more progress on the car than is possible."
I'm very happy to be here for my second time," says the first woman to drive an LMP 900 -- Milka Duno. "I feel very good with the car. The team has worked very hard on improvements for the car and everything is better. I think we have a chance at a good result. Tonight we have the first practice and we'll know more about the car and the set-up for the track."
"The Panoz-Mugen has had a steady growth in it's development plan from day-one," says John Graham. "I believe we're at the point now, with this race, where we can put out a very solid performance."