A YEAR LATER, PANOZ AND LNT AIM FOR GT2 REPEAT Lawrence Tomlinson knew it was going to happen. It was just a matter of time. The leading Porsche at Le Mans last year just had to break, so hard was the beating it took in the...
A YEAR LATER, PANOZ AND LNT AIM FOR GT2 REPEAT
Lawrence Tomlinson knew it was going to happen. It was just a matter of time. The leading Porsche at Le Mans last year just had to break, so hard was the beating it took in the opening stages of what would become the first win for Panoz and Team LNT at the world's premier auto race.
It was nearly a year ago when Tomlinson's prophecy came to pass. While his Panoz Esperante GTLM had been turning consistent laps hour after hour, the transmission and gearbox of one of the Porsches gave up the ghost and was left stranded while Richard Dean made up five laps and eventually gave Panoz its first win at the historic race and ended a string of Porsche dominance in GT2.
"It's incredibly special," the team owner and driver said looking back. "The fans at Le Mans are so knowledgeable about the race and they're all real enthusiasts. It means a massive amount. The French say that this is a British race run in France because there are so many Brits out here. We're a small British team and everyone just went absolutely bananas."
Not that LNT didn't have its own tense moments in the closing moments, as Tomlinson describes. But it ended so beautifully with Tomlinson, Dean and Tom Kimber-Smith looking down on the throng of fans from the podium.
"When the car came in for the final stint, we had a 40-second lead," he recalled. "When the car dropped off the jacks, Richard hit the start button and the car just died. You could have heard a pin drop. He pressed the start button again and nothing; he moved the fuel pump up and down. Of course the Porsche is still going around the track at this time and is catching us and catching us. Everyone just stood around the car. Finally he hit the button, fired up the big V8 and just blasted out of there. The rest is history."
So Panoz joined the ranks of Porsche, Audi, Aston Martin, Ferrari, Jaguar, BMW and so many others who are Le Mans champions. But repeating that success will be a tremendous feat against a field full of Ferraris, Porsche's new 997 RSR and Spyker. But the strategy will be very similar to last year, Tomlinson said. And why not? If it's not broken, don't fix it.
"It's very rare that the fastest car wins at Le Mans. Le Mans is all about reliability and Panoz has proven time after time what a reliable, strong car it is," he said. "That is the strength we will play toward.
"It was incredible for us with a team to be involved with the Panoz brand, the Esperante car and deliver a win," he added. "If anyone deserved a win at Le Mans, it was Don Panoz. He has been a big patron here and does a terrific job for sports car racing all over the world. We were very proud to give him that."
The 75th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is scheduled for 3 p.m. CET (9 a.m. ET) on Saturday, June 16 from the Circuit de la Sarthe. SPEED will provide 17.5 hours of coverage in North America starting at 8:30 a.m. ET on June 16. MotorsTV will air week-long coverage throughout Europe. Live coverage can be found on Radio Le Mans through americanlemans.com.