Sebring - FL (March 18th, 2006) Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz has dominated the opening round of 2006 American Le Mans Series, the ...
Sebring - FL (March 18th, 2006) Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz has dominated the opening round of 2006 American Le Mans Series, the #50 Panoz Esperante GTLM of David Brabham, Scott Maxwell and Sebastien Bourdais winning the GT2 class in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Despite tough challenges from the Ferrari, Porsche and BMW opposition, the #50 Panoz Esperante led 178 of the 320 laps completed -- spending seven hours and 22 minutes in the race lead.
Two-time Champ Car World Series champion Sebastien Bourdais battled a late-race gearbox issue as he completed the final stint, finishing 5.365 seconds ahead of the Porsche of Mark Lieb, Jon Fogarty and Johannes van Overbeek.
The Ferrari 430 GT Berllinetta of Anthony Lazarro, Ralf Kelleners and Jamie Melo finished third.
Brabham led the race for the opening 69 minutes before the first round of pit stops. The new Ferrari loomed as the toughest opposition for the Panoz squad as the lead changed repeatedly during the pit stop cycle for the opening seven and half hours of the race.
The Panoz began to assert its authority in the late afternoon when Bourdais passed the Ferrari after seven hours and 36 minutes.
From that point on, the Toronto-based Multimatic Panoz squad dominated the event -- spending stints of 52, 56, 57 and 52 minutes in the lead -- only losing top spot during each round of pit stops.
Panoz veteran David Brabham spent a total of 78 laps in the race lead, followed by Bourdais with 55 and Maxwell with 45. The victory was Brabham's eleventh class victory in the history of the American Le Mans Series, the second for Maxwell and Bourdais's first.
Brabham's GT2 victory today was his third Sebring Twelve Hour success -- backing up his GT1 win with Aston Martin from last year and the 1998 Panoz GT prototype victory.
"This is an outstanding start for this program, I am just so proud of everybody involved," Multimatic Vice President and Motorsports Technical Director, Larry Holt said.
"Don and Danny Panoz have entrusted us with this program and to start the season with a victory -- especially at such a tough race like Sebring is outstanding.
"I was confident we had the speed, but the reliability the car showed today is a real credit to our guys on the crew. David, Scott and Sebastien did a brilliant job all day and it feels great to be leading the championship after the opening round.
"It would have been nice to had two cars running strong at the finish, but Sebring can be a real car breaker. Gunnar and Tom showed they have the pace to challenge strongly this year and it's a real pity for Bruno he didn't get more laps in his first sportscar race.
"We had a great battle today against Porsche, Ferrari and BMW but the Panoz Esperante again showed it is an outstanding car both on the road and on the track."
While the #50 Panoz trio got to spray champagne on the podium, the Sebring event as a bitter-sweet day for team-mates Gunnar Jeannette, Tom Milner and Bruno Junqueira.
After showing impressive pace early in the race, the car lost rear drive after two hours, 36 minutes -- leaving Junqueira stranded on course and putting the car out of the event.
For Multimatic, the win joins the 2000 P2 24 Hours of Le Mans victory and the 2003 Daytona Prototype, Rolex 24 at Daytona successes as major highlights for the Canadian squad.
Today's Sebring success was the second ever American Le Mans Series round victory for the Panoz Esperante and the second Twelve Hours of Sebring class win for the brand.
The #50 Panoz Esperante today finished 9th outright in the 54th running of the annual Sebring event which was won overall by the new diesel-powered Audi R10 of Tom Kristensen, Dindo Capello and Alan McNish.
The next race on the schedule for the new championship-leading Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz squad will be the Lone Star Grand Prix in Houston from May 11-13.
"Along with Multimatic's successes at Le Mans and Daytona, this victory is right up there.
"In fact, this was probably one of the toughest because it was dog fight the entire day.
"The pit stops from the guys were amazing -- that was a great help.
"For me to have Brabs and Sebastien as my co-drivers is a great honor -- two of the best guys in the world as far as I am concerned.
"Having Sebastien with us today was a real bonus -- the guy is just incredible. He did a fantastic job especially at the end because the car wasn't easy to drive with the gearbox problem." view profile "[img_brabham_small_06.jpg] David Brabham
"We knew we had a good car and I was able to hold our own in the opening part of the race.
"The car wasn't as quick as the Ferrari on the harder Pirelli tire, but we were still just as quick as the others.
"Once we went onto the softer tire late in the day, the car had a speed advantage.
"For this team and car to win at Sebring -- it is a very big deal.
"It is a great start to the season to be leading the championship. It was a real shame what happened to the #51 car but the morale and confidence in the team is really high. We will have a lot of momentum headed into Houston."
"We had a problem with the gearbox at the end, it had a terrible vibration which kept getting worse and worse but we were able to hang on.
"From third to sixth gear it was really bad and I was really wondering whether we were going to make it.
"It was a very intense race. The whole team did a great job. What a way to start the season. I really enjoyed driving with David and Scott. We really enjoyed ourselves all week." view profile "