Sebring: Panoz Motor Sports preview

Panoz New Blood Makes Strong Start To Sebring Attack Panoz Motor Sports' three new drivers for this weekend's 50th Anniversary 12 Hours of Sebring have had their first major hit-outs aboard the LMP-1 Evo machine at the historic Florida ...

Panoz New Blood Makes Strong Start To Sebring Attack

Panoz Motor Sports' three new drivers for this weekend's 50th Anniversary 12 Hours of Sebring have had their first major hit-outs aboard the LMP-1 Evo machine at the historic Florida venue.

David Donohue, Bill Auberlen and Eric van de Poele all sampled the car in the unofficial test sessions on - each entering tomorrow's official practice greatly looking forward to the week ahead.

Donohue and Auberlen will join forces with fellow American, Bryan Herta for this weekend's event. While Herta will actually make his sportscar debut this weekend - he has the benefit of several day's pre-season testing aboard the #51 machine.

"My first drive yesterday was a lot of fun and really enlightening," Donohue said.

"The power and torque is fantastic and the grip is sensational - especially through turn one.

"We still have some sorting out to do, but I am confident the three of us will make a very strong combination in Saturday's race."

While Donohue is making his prototype debut this weekend, for Bill Auberlen, this race marks a homecoming to the prototype class after driving in GT last year.

"I was pleasantly surprised with the car - it really exceeded my expectations," he said.

"Having driven for BMW in prototypes I had an idea what to expect, but the Panoz was far superior in almost every facet.

"It really is a credit to the team and I am just thrilled to be able to drive the car."

Bryan Herta finished today's session eighth fastest after a broken driveshaft caused an early end for the day for the #51 car. Herta set a fastest time of 1 minute 54.176 seconds.

Jan Magnussen set the third fastest time of the day, stopping the clocks at 1:50.460 - just behind the two leading Audis.

"We still have a lot of work to do, but I am really pleased with the Michelin tire we tried at the end of the day," Magnussen said.

"The tire was fast and very consistent. We now have to work on improving the balance."

Two-time Sebring 12 Hour winner Eric van de Poele will team up with Magnussen and regular co-driver David Brabham.

Having raced a wide variety of different prototype machines in recent years, van de Poele was also pleasantly surprised with his first laps aboard the Panoz machine.

"As a front-engined car, it is certainly a very different style of sportscar, but I was surprised with how easy the car was to drive," van de Poele said.

"It is actually quite softly sprung and has a lot of power. It is very comfortable to drive and this will be very important over the 12 hour race on Saturday."

The Panoz "Spirit of America" machines will begin official practice tomorrow for the 50th Anniversary Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring - Presented by Dodge. Saturday's race forms the opening round of the 10-event 2002 American Le Mans Series.

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Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham , Jan Magnussen , Bryan Herta , Eric van de Poele , Bill Auberlen , David Donohue