TWO PANOZ MOTOR SPORTS ENTRIES HEAD FOR 1998 LE MANS
LE MANS, France, May 3 -- Panoz Motor Sports will take on Le Mans for the second time as two GTR-1s, one fielded by the French DAMS FIA GT team and one by the USA team, have prequalified in the GT1 class for the 24 hour classic to be held on June 6 and 7.
David Brabham qualified the #45 U.S. entry in the GT1 class with a time of 3:41.667. "I am delighted that we have pre-qualified," said Brabham. "There were a lot of good cars in the group, and we have ended up near the Nissans and Toyotas. However, there are many more areas we can improve upon before the race.
"When I first went out the car didn't feel so good and didn't have good grip. Then we had an exhaust problem which lost us some track time. We changed a lot of little things throughout the session and I gradually got more confidence in the car."
Eric Bernard qualified the #44 DAMS entry with a time of 3:42.347. "We are very happy that the two cars have qualified against some very tough competition," said Jean-Paul Driot, owner of the DAMS team. "We're a little disappointed, however, because we were not able to make the best of our last two sets of qualifying tires due to traffic. For sure we would have been in the low 41s otherwise."
Unfortunately, the revolutionary Panoz Q9 hybrid-electric vehicle was unable to make the GT1 field. The car was hampered throughout the second qualifying session by a series of electronic and mechanical problems.
"I am delighted that Panoz Motor Sports is the first team to have run a hybrid-electric vehicle at Le Mans," said Don Panoz, founder, Panoz Motor Sports. "Unfortunately did not have enough time to test all the extremely complex systems on this car. We know they work individually, but we need a little more time to improve their compatibility. The learning curve of this weekend has been invaluable to the future of this project.
"I would like to pay tribute to the superb efforts by our technology partners in this enterprise -- Zytek Engineering, Reynard Special Vehicle Projects, David Price Racing, Williams Grand Prix Engineering, Varta Batteries, and Pi Research, plus the many others who have contributed to this project."
"I am extremely pleased for the mechanics from Panoz USA and the DAMS team, but feel very sad for the David Price Racing team after their Herculean effort leading up to and during the events of the weekend," said Tony Dowe, managing director, Panoz Motor Sports. "Nobody likes to miss an event like Le Mans, but I know that the DPR guys will be back. I hope the development of the Q9 will pay them back in the not too distant future."