USRRC: Visteon Panoz Racing Team Toughs it Out at The Glen
24 August 1998WATKINS GLEN, New York, -- In today's six-hour USRRC GT/Can-Am race at Watkins Glen International Raceway, the #5 Visteon Panoz GTR-1, driven by Eric Bernard, Raul Boesel, and Andy Wallace, finished second in GT1 and fourth overall. The race was filled with "racing incidents" -- contact with other cars, poor officiating, and a windshield replacement 1/2 hour before the checkered flag after debris from a late-race accident came through the windshield.
David Brabham, driver of the #4 Visteon Panoz GTR-1, was involved in a multi-car accident on lap seven of the race. He was uninjured but the car was unable to return to the race. Andy Wallace, Brabham's co-driver in #4, joined Raul Boesel and Eric Bernard in piloting the #5 Visteon Panoz GTR-1 to second place and the lead in the USRRC Team Point Standings.
"Getting into the #5 Visteon Panoz was no problem," said driver Andy Wallace, originally scheduled to drive the #4 Visteon Panoz GTR-1 and i second place in the USRRC GT1 Driver Point Standings. "The set-up of the cars is essentially the same, which makes it easy to go from one car to the other. We had our own bits of drama on the track today, such as being tapped from behind by the (GT1 class winning) Porsche 911 GT1. I saw some oil and backed off the throttle, but the Porsche was right on my tail and lifted the back of my car for a moment, which was a bit too exciting for my taste. Overall, it was a very good race -- close and exciting."
Eric Bernard, co-driver of the #5 Visteon Panoz GTR-1, drove the final stint of the race. "I tried to catch up to the Porsche 911 GT1, but he was too far ahead," Bernard said. "I was driving the Visteon Panoz GTR-1 when a piece of debris came through the windshield from an accident I was very lucky to avoid. I was impressed how quickly the Visteon Panoz Racing Team was able to replace it -- 33 seconds is pretty incredible."
The most controversial officiating issue involved a caution period called at 3:15pm, immediately after the #5 Visteon Panoz GTR-1, running first in class and second overall at the time, entered the pits. The officials held #5 for 36 seconds following the completion of the pit stop, causing Andy Wallace to lose almost a full lap. The officials thought the yellow flag came out before the car had entered the pits, which were closed for the first lap of the caution period. The #5 Visteon Panoz GTR-1 was never able to regain the lost time.
Tony Dowe, managing director of Panoz Motor Sports was disappointed with the results of the race. "The Visteon Panoz Racing Team deserved much better," he said. "David Brabham's accident was also a big disappointment, but I was pleased that there was an opportunity to keep Andy Wallace in the driver's points standings."
Dowe also expressed his unhappiness with the race officials. "I think the officiating was appalling, especially the call that cost us the better part of a lap because they decided to close the pits after we were already there," said Dowe. "We weren't the only ones out there today to suffer from poor calls, and it definitely had an effect on the outcome of this race."
The next race for the Visteon Panoz Racing Team is the NAPA Auto Parts Sebring Classic Presented by Royal Purple Synthetic Motor Oil, at Sebring International Raceway, September 16-19, 1998.