MULTIMATIC LEADS 10TH PANOZ ASSAULT AT LE MANS 24 HOUR
Le Mans - France (June 8th, 2006) Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz has its sights set on providing the Panoz marque with its first ever victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the 10th assault on the classic French endurance race by the American manufacturer.
The original Panoz GTR1 hit the track for the first time in France in 1997 with two cars entered by David Price Racing and a single entry by the French-squad, DAMS.
Unfortunately, none of the three entries made it to the finish. Andy Wallace, James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger (236 laps); Frank Lagorce, Eric Bernard and Jean-Christophe Boullion (149 laps) and Perry McCarthy, Doc Bundy and current Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz squad member David Brabham (145 laps) were the first drivers to compete at La Sarthe for the American marque.
The best ever Panoz result is shared by the Panoz Motor Sports entry of Johnny O'Connell, Hiroki Katoh and Pierre-Henri Raphanel who finished 5th in 2000 and Gunnar Jeannette, Max Papis and Olivier Beretta who scored the same result for JML Team Panoz in 2003.
Other drivers who have competed at Le Mans with the Panoz brand over the past 10 years include Jamie Davies, Christophe Tinseau, Jan Magnussen, Max Angelelli, Mario Andretti, Toshio Suzuki, Masahiko Kageyama, Masami Kageyama, Takeshi Tsechiya, Mashahiko Kondou, Akira Iida, John Nielsen, Klaus Graf, Mauro Baldi, Gary Formato, Bill Auberlen, David Donohue, Bryan Herta, David Saelens, Scott Maxwell, Benjamin Leuenberger, Patrick Bourdais, Jean-Luc Blanchemain, Roland Berville, Robin Liddell, Bryan Sellars and Mario Franchitti.
For this year's 10th anniversary assault in the GT2 class, Tom Milner becomes the 43rd driver to compete at Le Mans for Panoz, joining Scott Maxwell and Gunnar Jeannette. European squad, Team LNT will also enter a single Panoz Esperante GTLM for Lawrence Tomlinson, Richard Dean and Tom Kimber-Smith.
Multimatic is competing at Le Mans for only the third time. In 2000, the team won on debut in the LMP675 class with Scott Maxwell, John Graham and Greg Wilkins aboard a Lola B2K/40. That victory earned Multimatic the honour of being the first and only Canadian team to ever win a class at the event.
Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz enters next week's event after a troubled day on Sunday - setting the fourth fastest time of the day despite engine problems. The team's proposed race engine will now be fitted to the car for qualifying starting next Wednesday while the current power-plant is on its way to the US for repairs -- ready to be returned to France for use in the race.
"Multimatic is very proud to lead the charge for Panoz on its 10th assault on Le Mans," Multimatic Motorsports Vice President and Technical Director, Larry Holt said.
"The Panoz brand has become a crowd favourite in France over the years and we would love to give the fans something to cheer about with a podium finish next week.
"We were very happy with the speed and balance of the car at the test day and the guys at Elan Power Products are out to leave no stone unturned to get to the bottom of the engine problems we faced.
"I remain very confident we have the car and the drivers to be extremely strong in the race. Le Mans is a significant challenge but a victory in the GT2 class is certainly our target. If everything falls into place, a repeat of our Sebring win is not out of the question."
"I made my debut at Le Mans back in 2000 with Multimatic so it is great to be back here again with these guys because we have worked together for so long.
"I have also done a lot of races for Panoz before so to be in a combined Multimatic/Panoz effort this year is fantastic
"It would be great to repeat that class victory from 2000 and pick up another Le Mans win for a Canadian team.
"I am a bit of a motorsport historian and I always remember being a little bit in awe when I first drove out the pit lane back in 2000 -- this race is always a highlight of the year.
"The toughest part of Le Mans is the discipline. You have to race within yourself and not get caught up in the chase. As you get physically and mentally tired, it can be easy to make mistakes, particularly as daylight breaks on Sunday morning.
"You have to work hard on staying focussed and minimizing those mistakes because if you do make an error -- there are five or six Porsches ready to pounce at this place."
"We had our issues on the test day, but we still finished with a very strong baseline to go forward with into race week.
"I am so pleased to be back at Le Mans this year. In 2005 I was driving the Mustang in Grand Am Cup at Mosport on this weekend but this is certainly my favourite race of the year.
"I am really excited to be back here with the Multimatic guys and Panoz because I believe we have a very good chance of winning our class.
"I am looking forward to getting back in the car during race week to get used to driving a GT at Le Mans again. My last three years here have been in prototype cars so it takes a little while to get used to the GT again.
"It actually feels completely different being back here in this type of car. I have finished 2nd in GT here before so now we are out to go one better."
"Having now done some laps on the circuit I can't wait for the race. The track is everything I had hoped for.
"The Porsche curves are definitely my favourite part of the circuit. It's really quick and you can enter quite fast, brake and downshift two gears and then carry a lot of speed through the rest of the turns.
"I really like fast corners but the Mulsanne straight is also fun. You can get the chance to relax, check your temps and get a good look in your mirrors.
"I still think there is a bit of time for me to find under brakes. That is where I will be working during qualifying to get up to speed a little quicker.
"I am still learning turn one as well -- I feel there is a bit of time to find there. It can be quite tricky on entry.
"Everything I have ever seen on television about this race is certainly true. You have to try to stay off the kerbs or you can really risk getting a puncture."