Sebring: Max Papis ready for the 12 hours

"Mad Max" Papis makes his return to the 12 Hours of Sebring this weekend, driving the No. 10 JML Team Panoz LMP01 race car. Papis, along with teammates Olivier Beretta and Gunnar Jeannette, will start the 51st annual 12 Hours of Sebring race from...

"Mad Max" Papis makes his return to the 12 Hours of Sebring this weekend, driving the No. 10 JML Team Panoz LMP01 race car. Papis, along with teammates Olivier Beretta and Gunnar Jeannette, will start the 51st annual 12 Hours of Sebring race from the sixth position on the grid.

Max's only other running at the legendary Sebring circuit was in 1996, driving the MOMO Ferrari 333 SP with Gianpiero Moretti and Didier Theys. That was Max's second U.S. race, and his first U.S. pole position.

"I have been getting my feet wet with the new car and new environment," said Papis "This is a new venture with JML Team Panoz, but they have good experience with this car and at Sebring. I am also glad to be back at Sebring. The event is bigger than I remember. The crowd seems to be bigger and has grown a lot. It's a very special atmosphere."

Papis is optimistic about the team's chances of success this weekend. "I feel our position is strong," said Papis. "What we may not have in performance over the Audis and Bentley, we have in consistency, reliability, pit work and team experience. We have been consistent with our lap times, but I believe we can still get another second to second-and-a-half more out of the car."

Papis first competed in IMSA sports car racing in 1996 with the MOMO Ferrari team, where he collected three victories and earned his nickname, "Mad Max" for his late race charges.

In late 1996, he joined the elite Championship Auto Race Teams (CART) series. He won three CART races, at Miami, Portland and Laguna Seca, in seven years, as well as numerous podium finishes and two pole positions. He also fulfilled a personal career dream by competed in the Indianapolis 500 last year.

Max remembers his first time to Sebring and how unique the fans are to this event, compared to anywhere else in the world.

"Sebring is a special place. I always remember coming here and seeing all the crazy fans," added Papis. "When I first came to Sebring, I was so surprised to see people with their sofas on top of motor homes and driving these wild vehicles around the Paddock. I had never seen anything like this in Europe. The fans were so different here and I went back to Italy and told my family and friends about all of this that I saw and no one could believe it. You have to see this to believe it."

Papis, who won the 2002 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race, hopes to add more successful sports car racing history to his bio this weekend.

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Max Papis , Gunnar Jeannette , Olivier Beretta , Gianpiero Moretti