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Le Mans: Panoz GTR-1 Takes Seventh in 24 Hours of Le Mans

9 June 1998

LE MANS, France -- The #45 Visteon Panoz GTR-1, entered by Panoz U.S. and driven by veterans David Brabham (AUS) and Andy Wallace (GB), as well as sports car newcomer Jamie Davies (GB), took seventh place in the 1998 24 Hours of Le Mans. The field this year included formidable entrants from Porsche, Nissan, Toyota, BMW, and Ferrari, among others in a Le Mans with a higher level of competition than in many years past.

This is the second time Panoz has undertaken Le Mans, and the 1998 race marks the first finish.

Visteon Panoz #45 ran very well for the 24 hour period through greatly varying weather conditions, which included intermittent rain. The Visteon Panoz Racing Team persevered through the race with only one malady, a faulty wiring loom that caused a short in the taillights, sidelining the car for 35 minutes.

"This result is for everyone involved in this project," said David Brabham, driver, #45 Visteon Panoz GTR-1. "It's been a tough learning experience for Panoz, and to get a car to finish in seventh place is a real achievement for everyone involved. We showed something today -- The Visteon Panoz Racing Team should be taken very seriously. I look forward to next year's race."

Andy Wallace, the second driver of the #45 Visteon Panoz GTR-1, was happy about the reliability of the Visteon Panoz. "This is the longest we've actually run the car, because at Daytona we stopped early (engine overheated) and Sebring is a shorter race," he said. "Everything ran pretty much like clockwork. The brakes and the gearbox was superb, and the Michelin tires were very good -- I triple stinted at one point on the same set of tires. I'm thrilled with the result for the team."

1998 marked the Le Mans debut of Jamie Davies, the third driver of the #45 Visteon Panoz GTR-1. "This was my first Le Mans, and I enjoyed it very much," he said. "It's got an atmosphere that can't be found anywhere else. It was a long race, and the Visteon Panoz Racing Team did a great job. The car ran very well throughout the day and night and there were no real dramas except for the light problem. My co-drivers and I worked well together, and I'm very happy. I'd love to come back and do another one."

"This was a very tough and exciting race for the Visteon Panoz Racing Team," said Charlie Szuluk, president, Visteon Automotive Systems. "Perseverance, teamwork, and quick responses to changing situations put the team in a position to finish this race."

"I'm very happy for the whole team," said Tony Dowe, managing director, Panoz Motor Sports. "That includes all our partners from Reynard Special Vehicle Projects, Roush, Zytek, Visteon, and Michelin. In fact, everybody who has helped us to be here today deserves thanks, because they're all part of our team. All the guys in the team are really proud that Don Panoz has stuck by something like this, an unconventional car with an unconventional engine. Anyone less would have not made this project so successful. There's only one way for us to go from here -- to win."

Don Panoz, the founder of Panoz Motor Sports, was smiling at the finish. "We finished with a good position," he said. "I'm very proud that we made it through the 24 hours, but we'll be back."

The second Visteon Panoz Racing Team entrant, the #44 Visteon Motorola DAMS Panoz GTR-1, entered by the French DAMS team and driven by Eric Bernard (FR), Christophe Tinseau (FR), and Johnny O'Connell (USA), retired after 20 and 1/2 hours due to a gearbox problem.