JML Team Panoz may have equalled the best ever performance by a Panoz today in the Le Mans 24 Hour with fifth place, but the way the team achieved the result further cemented the team as crowd favorites in France. After brilliant performances...
JML Team Panoz may have equalled the best ever performance by a Panoz today in the Le Mans 24 Hour with fifth place, but the way the team achieved the result further cemented the team as crowd favorites in France.
After brilliant performances from Max Papis and Olivier Beretta, the responsibility to complete the race fell on the shoulders of young 21-year-old star Gunnar Jeannette.
Little did Jeannette know he was about to face the race of his life to maintain fifth place. After pitting for fuel with only one hour go, Jeannette withstood enormous pressure from Courage Judd driver Jean-Marc Gounon and also held Dome Judd entrant and former Le Mans winner Jan Lammers at bay.
Their breathtaking battle for fifth stole the television coverage of the last hour from Bentley's historic one-two victory.
Gounon and Jeannette nearly touched on several occaisions in the hour-long fight through the traffic to the checkered flag.
The result by Papis, Beretta and Jeannette equalled the fifth place finish by Panoz in 2000 by Johnny O'Connell, Hiroki Katoh and Pierre-Henri Raphanel.
Unfortunately the second JML team car was out after 18 hours when David Saelens suffered a deflating tire after running over debris.
The tire remnants subsequently tore a brake line off and put the #12 Panoz into the tire barrier.
The result was a disappointed for Saelens, Scott Maxwell and Benjamin Leuenberger who had been running as high as 7th before being delayed with problems early in the morning.
The team will now prepare for the next round of the American Le Mans Series at Road Atlanta - the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta from June 27-29.
"This is probably the biggest day of my life - we finished fifth and I had an amazing battle with Jean Marc Gounon at the finish.
"Our car finished without a single problem all day and the race with Jean Marc was probably the race of my life.
"I am tired, I'm beat and I am sore - but after a result like this, I feel no pain.
"I really have to thank Michelin and everybody who is a part of this. I have to also thank John McLoughlin and I am really pleased we got a good result for him. Hopefully, he can be back with us soon."
"Fifth place is the best finish we could have expected and I am very glad we actually achieved it. We arrived here and nobody really expected much from us, but we quietly said don't count us out.
"Everybody at JML Team Panoz have been pushing very hard - the drivers, the crew, the engineers - this was a strong effort.
"It took a lot of effort from everybody and we had a flawless race. Many thanks to Michelin who were perfect as always and we probably achieved the goal of "best of the rest" behind the Audis and Bentleys - that is a not a bad result at all".
"I am very happy and proud of the team for everything we achieved today. The car ran faultlessly throughout the day and everybody is very proud of the result we achieved.
"Gunnar and Max did a brilliant job and I have really enjoyed being part of the team for the Le Mans assault.
"Nobody expected we would get a result like this, so that is what makes it so much sweeter. We now have to set our sights achieving similar results in the remainder of the American Le Mans Series starting in Atlanta in two weeks."
"The first 12 hours were great and we were able to hover around 7th, 8th and 9th position but then we had some small problems which kept us in the pits for a while.
"Unfortunately I was in the car when I obviously ran over some debris and the tire let go as I was entering the chicane and ripped a brake line off.
"I went straight into the tires and that was the end of the race. Sometimes to pass some of the slower cars you have to move off line and that is where there is a lot of stones and debris.
"The entire experience however of this race was brilliant. I can't wait to come back."
"We would have loved to get to the finish like the #11 car but it wasn't to be this year.
"I really have to hand to the guys who worked tirelessly to get the car back out on track twice after mechanical dramas.
"What happened to David at the finish was a real disappointment. We should be thankful he is OK because he was travelling very fast when the problem struck.
"Michelin do a brilliant job for us, but the track conditions here can sometimes make it very tough for any tire."
"My first Le Mans was a great experience. We were running very strongly until this morning when all the problems appeared.
"Michelin provided us an excellent selection of tires and we were able to many triple stints which is very important in doing well here.
"The team did a brilliant job on the car all week and I am very much looking forward to coming back in the future - it is a wonderful experience."