PIRELLI-SHOD PANOZ WINS LE MANS
First GT2 Victory Ever By Marque Other Than Porsche
LE MANS, France, June 18, 2006 -- It's the longest and most challenging race in the world and, for this, it has become a legend in motor racing. Once again this year, the 24 Hours of Le Mans confirmed how difficult the challenge is as nearly half of the participants withdrew from the race.
Pirelli Competizioni, participating in the 74th edition of the French marathon with many competitors in LMGT1 and LMGT2 and some LMP2 prototypes, saw the British Team LNT Panoz Esperante score a one-lap victory over a Porsche 996 and a Ferrari 430 GTC in the LMGT2 category, the first GT2 win ever by a non-Porsche entry! The victory by Tomlinson/Dean/Kimber-Smith is a near repeat of the 12 Hours of Sebring in March of this year where the Multimatic Panoz Esperante of Brabham/Maxwell/Bourdais defeated entries from Porsche and Ferrari. Pirelli and Panoz are now "two for two" in the world's great endurance classics.
The Pirelli-shod Aston Martin DBR9 of BMS Scuderia Italia was not so fortunate in LMGT1 though. After qualifying fourth, Fabio Babini lost control of his Aston on only the fourth lap of the race when he skidded on oil while running at 140 mph. Fortunately, Babini was uninjured but the horrific double impact with the Armco barriers made the car the race's first casualty of many other withdrawals.
There was some good news in LMGT1, though, as a famous Pirelli-shod marque competed and completed its inaugural run at the Circuit of the Sarthe. The Japan-based JLOC Lamborghini Murcielago LM-GTR had a first-rate performance on its Pirelli tires finishing eighth in class and causing lead driver, Marco Apicella, to explain: "an excellent level in terms of strength and performances even tough being here in Le Mans just to gain experience above all in the case of the Japanese drivers who shared the Lamborghini cockpit with me".
Pierluigi De Cancellis, Pirelli Competizioni Circuit Manager, obviously highlights the "more than excellent performances shown during both qualifying and the race by the Pirelli tires, especially the winning exploit by Panoz. The immediate retirement of the Scuderia Italia Aston Martin, extinguished the hope to aim high in the LMGT1 category too; however the results gathered here in Le Mans are certainly valuable for the future developments of our Pirelli P Zero Racing, which will be used for the upcoming races in Europe and the United States".