SEBRING, Florida, September 19 -- Despite the downpours, David Brabham and Andy Wallace drove the ...
SEBRING, Florida, September 19 -- Despite the downpours, David Brabham and Andy Wallace drove the #4 Visteon Panoz to its first overall victory this season in the NAPA Auto Parts Sebring Classic Presented by Royal Purple Motor Oil, finishing ahead of three WSC entries in the shortened, rain-soaked race. The win also secured the Professional Sports Car Racing GT1 team and manufacturer's titles for Panoz and boosted the Visteon Panoz team's hold on the GT1 driver's title.
"I am very pleased with the performance of the team, " says Don Panoz, founder, Panoz Motor Sports. "This team has done so well for being only its second season. An overall win against such tough competition is a tremendous victory for us. I'm sure the inclement weather played a role in our victory."
The Sebring deluge began just eight minutes after the start of the race. Standing water quickly accumulated around the 3.75-mile course and the three-hour race was subsequently red-flagged for 64 minutes because of conditions. In all, just 10 of the subsequent 33 laps were run under green, including the final 16 minutes of the race.
David Brabham started the race in the #4 Visteon Panoz and when the torrential rains began, he stayed on course while the WSC cars pitted, taking the lead. When Brabham subsequently pitted for wet tires, the team was able to get him back out ahead of the WSC cars, and the #4 Visteon Panoz retained its lead following the red-flag stoppage.
Andy Wallace took over for the final driving stint and when the track went green, he maintained the lead during the final laps and secured the Visteon Panoz Racing Team's first overall victory for this season.
"The conditions were a great leveler and our Michelin tires were excellent," says, Tony Dowe, managing director, Panoz Motor Sports. "For the team to keep its head down, to keep working hard, a win outright is a just reward. It's good to enter the last three races of the year coming off of an outright win."
The #5 Visteon Panoz, driven by Eric Bernard and Johnny O'Connell, was running a double cooling duct for this race and in the extremely wet conditions the car's electricals shorted out, stranding it on the track twice. But the Visteon Panoz team got it back into the competition and the Bernard/O'Connell entry finished the race in 18th spot. "I'd like to congratulate the Visteon Panoz Racing Team on winning the Professional Sports Car Racing GT1 team and manufacturer's championships," says Charles W. Szuluk, President of Visteon Automotive Systems. "They have done a terrific job this season and really exemplify what it takes to be the best. Through our racing efforts, Visteon continues to develop technologies under the toughest possible conditions. This ultimately benefits our customers when we transfer those technologies into production vehicles. Again -- my congratulations to the entire team -- it has been an outstanding season."
The next race for the Visteon Panoz Racing Team will be the Petit LeMans - 1000 Miles at Road Atlanta on October 10, 1998 which will inaugurate the newly formed American LeMans Series. Scrutineering for Petit LeMans begins on Tuesday, October 6 at the Lennox Square Mall in Buckhead, Georgia, with practice and qualifying scheduled for October 8-9.