Belgian David Saelens pulled out the highlight of the day for JML Team Panoz in a tough fight for the Georgia-based team at the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma today - round three of the 2003 American Le Mans Series. After failing to complete a...
Belgian David Saelens pulled out the highlight of the day for JML Team Panoz in a tough fight for the Georgia-based team at the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma today - round three of the 2003 American Le Mans Series.
After failing to complete a lap in qualifying yesterday, Saelens was forced to start from the rear of the grid in the #11 Panoz he shared with Benjamin Leuenberger.
The ex-Formula 3000 ace then went on a charge, forcing his way through the field to eventually claim the LMP900 class lead and 2nd place overall at mid race distance.
Saelens pitted to change over to Leuenberger after 1 hour and 40 minutes under green flag conditions, but a number of leading contenders were able to do their final pit stop under subsequent yellow flag caution periods - putting the #11 a lap down and out of contention for the LMP900 podium.
Leuenberger brought the car home in 6th place overall and 5th in class.
Gunnar Jeannette and Olivier Beretta finished the race in 5th place (4th in LMP900) after suffering a gear shifting problem after only the third lap of the race.
The duo battled throughout the 2 hour, 45 minute race, having to manually blip the throttle before selecting gears on the steering wheel mounted gear paddles.
The LMP675 Lola MG of James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger took the overall victory - the first by an LMP675 car in ALMS history.
JML Team Panoz now head across the country to Trois Rivieres in Canada for the next round of the championship next weekend.
"Driving from the back of the grid to first place in our class was a big thrill, but Benjamin and I were a little unlucky towards the end because we had to pit under green and a lot of the guys ahead of us were able to pit under yellow.
"Doing a double stint at the start was very difficult because the track is so physical and I was pretty tired at the finish.
"After a couple of days of problems, it was good to get a trouble free run and I am now really looking forward to the next race at Trois Rivieres."
"I feel pleased to get my first sprint race for JML Team Panoz - I had a lot of fun out there.
"The traffic was actually better than I expected but the way the yellow flag situation fell really hurt our chances.
"I really enjoyed myself out there today - I managed to get past an MG Lola on a restart at one stage which was a lot of fun."
"We had a problem with the throttle blipper on the paddle shift after about three laps which really hurt our chances.
"We had to manually blip the throttle every time we wanted to change gears and the sometimes we would get neutral or not shift to the next gear. I made a great start and actually got ahead of the Dallara on the green flag, but life got a lot tougher after that.
"Oli did a great job after I got out the car and I suppose we should be pretty happy to bring a wounded car home in fifth"
"That was certainly one of the toughest races I have had to do.
"The gear changing problem really made it tough, by the time I got in the car it took me a couple of laps to learn how to get the car to change.
"I had to blip the throttle twice every time I would change down - that put me very sideways a number of times.
"It was a real pity we had that problem because it probably cost us a podium chance in the LMP900 class."