One of the world's best known motor racing names will be driving for Panoz Motor Sports at the Le Mans 24 Hour race in June.
Mario Andretti, former F1 World Champion, Indy 500 winner and CART star, will be lining up alongside David Brabham, Jan Magnussen, Johnny O'Connell, Hiroki Katoh and Pierre-Henri Raphanel for the world's most prestigious endurance race. While Andretti retired from active driving at the end of 1994, he has continued to seek the one trophy missing from his mantle. He has competed seven times in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, finishing as high as second in 1995.
Team owner Don Panoz said after signing Mario Andretti, "It's not every day you get to sign up a legend to your team, but I can tell you it's a great feeling! Mario's addition to our driver line up makes us a real force to be reckoned with at Le Mans this year, and I am flattered that he has decided to join the Panoz team who are, after all, relative newcomers to sportscar racing. However, he's been to see us and meet the members of our team and you have to say that our record of Championship titles over the last three years speaks for itself."
Fifty nine-year-old Andretti tested the Panoz LMP-1 Roadster S this week at Road Atlanta in less than ideal weather conditions as the usually temperate Georgian climate was replaced by an icy track and freezing winds. However, after driving the car for 25 laps, Mario said;
"I really liked this car - it was fun to drive and very responsive to any changes we made even though it was getting difficult to keep any heat in the tires due to the cold weather. The Panoz team works well together and I felt very comfortable with everyone on first acquaintance. More importantly they are all really committed to success at Le Mans. Victory at Le Mans is something which has so far eluded me but I am confident that Don will provide me with the right package to be able to achieve that goal."
The team will not be announcing driver pairings yet, and it is anticipated that Mario Andretti will have the opportunity to test the car on several more occasions before the Le Mans pre-qualifying sessions at the end of April.
The Panoz Motor Sports team has also confirmed that its contracted test driver, Klaus Graf, will be the sixth and final driver in the line up for the Sebring 12 Hours on March 18th.
Graf, 30, who carried out testing duties for the team during 1999 also competed in the Petit Le Mans event with Franz Konrad and Jan Lammers in the privately entered Panoz LMP-1 Roadster S. His consistency and speed in that race ensured his continuation as Panoz's chosen test driver for 2000.