Houston: GT2 - Multimatic Panoz spotlight

MULTIMATIC, PANOZ LOOKING TO GO 2-FOR-2 Braselton, Ga. - In the biggest race of the American Le Mans Series, Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz more than lived up to expectations with a GT2 class win at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Now...

MULTIMATIC, PANOZ LOOKING TO GO 2-FOR-2

Braselton, Ga. - In the biggest race of the American Le Mans Series, Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz more than lived up to expectations with a GT2 class win at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Now for an encore: the Lone Star Grand Prix in Houston, the Series' first street race since 2003. The second round of the 2006 schedule is set for 8 p.m. CDT May 12 at the nine-turn, 1.7-mile Reliant Park circuit.

It will mark the resumption of a torrid GT2 battle at Sebring that saw the No. 50 Panoz Esperante GTLM outlast Risi Competizione's Ferrari and Flying Lizard Motorsports' Porsche.

"Speedwise, we were about where we thought we would be," said Scott Maxwell, who codrove to the Sebring win with David Brabham and Sebastien Bourdais. "I was pleasantly surprised with the reliability. That was where we struggled last year. I knew it was probably going to be better going forward, but everyone was really ratcheted up for it and it showed."

Reliability again will be a key to success at Houston, despite being just a two-hour, 45-minute race. By nature, street circuits are normally rougher than regular road courses due to public traffic and other elements. As a result, the Multimatic team is working on finding the right measure of springs and dampers for the Panoz Esperante to counteract the beating sure to come from the racetrack.

"It's a different type of 'bumpy' than Sebring, but it will be rough," said Brabham, who will join Maxwell at Houston. "I think everyone has been out there to have a look, including Pirelli to do some tire work. Until we get there, it's difficult to know what sort of shape it will be in. It'll be very green, so it will take awhile for the grip to come. We can't chase the setup too quickly or we will just be setting ourselves back."

The torque from the Panoz Esperante's V8 motor surprises many who climb into the car for the first time. Given some of the 90-degree turns - and greater - at the Houston circuit, could that help? Opinions differ.

"Hopefully the Panoz should do very well," said Tom Milner, who will partner with Gunnar Jeannette in the No. 51 Panoz Esperante. "The torque should definitely help. The car brakes well and handles well, so I don't think we're giving up much in braking and in the corners."

"Seeing the Ferrari coming out of the hairpin (at Sebring), it was like a rocket," Brabham offered. "But the BMWs have ABS, which they will use in their cars heavily. It should be another terrific battle."

Maxwell did a few shakedown laps for both of the team's Panoz Esperante GTLMs Tuesday to correct a few things from Sebring, mainly a vibration that cropped up late in the race in the winning car.

"It will be a lot of second- and third-gear turns. It may be a tough go," he said. "The BMWs will be strong under braking, and the Ferrari seems to be a nimble, hard-going car. This is a race I think we need to survive and get some good points. With that said, of course we're going to try to get another win."

The next round of the 2006 American Le Mans Series is the Lone Star Grand Prix, scheduled for 8 p.m. CDT on May 12 in Houston. It will be broadcast at 1 p.m. May 13 EDT on CBS Sports, the first of five straight Series events on network television. Qualifying is set for 6:15 p.m. CDT on May 11. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage at www.americanlemans.com, which also will have IMSA Live Timing & Scoring.

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham , Gunnar Jeannette
Teams Risi Competizione , Multimatic Motorsports , Flying Lizard Motorsports