Panoz Motor Sports Road to Sebring: Part 3 of 3 Tony Dowe Talks About the Exxon Superflo 12 Hours at Sebring, Saturday, March 21, 1998 The 12 Hours at Sebring, in Sebring, Florida is one of the premier endurance races on the sports car ...
Panoz Motor Sports Road to Sebring: Part 3 of 3
Tony Dowe Talks About the Exxon Superflo 12 Hours at Sebring, Saturday, March 21, 1998
The 12 Hours at Sebring, in Sebring, Florida is one of the premier endurance races on the sports car circuit. It is a tough, challenging race for the cars, the teams, and the drivers. Sebring was the site of the first U.S. Grand Prix in 1959 and is the oldest endurance race in the United States.
Tony Dowe joined the Panoz team from Formula One where he was director of Arrows Grand Prix, Ltd. for Tom Walkinshaw. Under his direction, his sports car teams have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Daytona 24 Hours. He brings his extensive knowledge to the ever-growing Panoz Motor Sports empire.
What is the preparation necessary for the 12 Hours at Sebring? It's exactly the same as the Daytona 24 Hours or indeed any other race. You've got to have a game plan where you prepare the cars correctly, you have the right amount of spares and have the right people in the right place at the right time.
How does Sebring differ from other races? It doesn't. It's exactly the same in every respect. It's just another race track with the same set of problems as anywhere else.
What is a typical strategy for Sebring?
The strategy is that it's a quicker sprint than a 24 hour sprint. It's still flat out, pedal to the metal the whole way. For this race, there will be two drivers per car with the third as a floater depending on the strategic requirements at the time.
What do you think of the track itself?
I'm delighted that Don (Panoz) is going to take it and turn it into a modern racetrack, instead of letting Sebring's history become like an old lady that people pay homage to rather than respect.
What do you think of the new format this year opening the race up to the world?
I think that it's moving with the realities of sports car racing and it's the right thing to do. People tend to forget that at the end of the day it shouldn't be self-serving, it should be for the benefit of the people that come through the gates to see a competitive race. That was what was very sad about the Daytona 24 Hour, that you had a few people with self-serving interest trying to set it up for their own benefit.
What do you think of the climate in the world of U.S. sports car racing?
It's confusing. Hopefully the statement Sebring makes will convince people that sports car racing in the U.S has got a good direction. I think that Professional Sports Car Racing should be applauded if it works.
Do you think the past is bound to repeat itself?
With Professional Sports Car Racing, there will be a sanctioning body that will provide rules stability for people who wish to take part, without the promotional side of it having quite the influence on the rules-making side of it that sanctioning bodies have had in the past. So hopefully you'll have the best of both worlds.
What has been done to the Panoz GTR-1 in preparation for Sebring?
Each event you look at and you think what you have to do to maximize the performance of the car. So while the car may look visually similar, in detail it's quite different. We have aerodynamic refinements for that level of downforce. The car for Sebring is running to ACO/Le Mans rules, in contrast to the USRRC rules for the Daytona cars.
What do you think of the car? What are its strengths? You only know that answer in retrospect. That's why you race. At the end of 12 hours, we'll know. Every car that's ever raced has strengths and weaknesses and what you try to do is minimize the weaknesses and accentuate the strengths. You'll only find out, if you've been successful at that retrospectively after the race. I think that it would be wrong to highlight something prior to a race. It's better to look back and say, "Well we got this right and this right and this needs working on." It's not something that ahead of time that I want to guess at, because that's what it would be, a guess.
How many Panoz GTR-1s are being entered?
Who is driving them?
David Brabham, Eric Bernard, Andy Wallace, and Jamie Davies, with Doc Bundy floating between the two cars.
What do you think of Panoz Motor Sports chance for victory?
We go to a race with the intention of winning.