What might have been: How Panoz virtually missed out on its talisman - Motor Informed
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What might have been: How Panoz virtually missed out on its talisman

Do you like the McLaren F1 GTR or Panoz GTR-1? Each 1990s vehicles at the moment are fondly remembered, however you’d most likely not have thought twice about which one you’d moderately drive heading into the 1997 FIA GT Championship.

David Brabham was in that type of place and it appeared like a simple choice. The short-tailed competitors model of Gordon Murray’s F1 had received the BPR International GT Sequence in each 1995 and 1996, whereas Brabham had taken the All-Japan GT title with John Nielsen of their Staff Lark McLaren. The Panoz didn’t have the engine within the ‘proper’ place…

“I bear in mind seeing an article in Autosport about this front-engined GT,” remembers Brabham. “I believed, ‘My dad confirmed everybody that the engine needs to be within the again. I’ll by no means drive one.’”

McLaren was creating the long-tailed F1 GTR and competitors boss David Clark appeared eager on doing a take care of Brabham, however negotiations didn’t run easily.

“David Value [in charge of the Panoz team] was on my again about driving the Panoz,” provides Brabham, now 55. “When it got here to it McLaren mentioned, ‘We wish you to drive however we’re not paying.’ So I picked up the telephone to Dear.”

A deal was achieved however McLaren tried contacting Brabham whereas he was on vacation: “A fax got here by way of with a proposal with cash. I mentioned, ‘My phrase is my phrase’ and that I’d signed elsewhere.”

Initially, it appeared that Brabham had chosen badly. Whereas the McLaren received 5 of the 11 FIA GT races and Steve Soper/JJ Lehto narrowly missed out on the crown to Mercedes driver Bernd Schneider, the Panoz proved troublesome. Along with Perry McCarthy, Brabham scored only one podium on a moist day at Sebring.

McLaren initially looked to have been the better bet in 1997, winning four of the first five races in the FIA GT championship - only to withdraw at season's end

McLaren initially seemed to have been the higher wager in 1997, profitable 4 of the primary 5 races within the FIA GT championship – solely to withdraw at season’s finish

Photograph by: Motorsport Images

That required a little bit of luck too – having certified solely 12th, DPR had timed its swap to wets completely and Brabham had risen to 3rd, however did not look prone to keep there. A delayed Lehto “ate into McCarthy’s lead typically by as a lot as 10 seconds per lap,” reported Autosport, earlier than the automotive caught fireplace.

“Lehto’s retirement meant that McCarthy and Panoz held on to 3rd, a outstanding end result for a marque that had been aiming, or maybe hoping, for a solitary level from the US journey,” reckoned Autosport. Brabham, for his half, mentioned the stunning end result “looks like we received the race right this moment”.

“That [McLaren] programme did a yr after which they pulled out so I picked the proper horse” David Brabham

However amid growing domination from Mercedes, McLaren withdrew on the finish of 1997.

“That programme did a yr after which they pulled out so I picked the proper horse,” reckons Brabham. “The Panoz was fraught with issues however early on I believed close-up that it seemed like a racing automotive and had potential.”

The Australian ended up staying with the Panoz operation for six years because the GTR-1 advanced into the open-top LMP Roadster and past.

He switched to DAMS for 1998 and fought the uneven wrestle towards Mercedes in FIA GTs – scoring two podiums with Eric Bernard at Hockenheim and Dijon as Mercedes received all 10 races earlier than the championship imploded – nevertheless it was America the place Brabham would have his best successes with Panoz.

Brabham remained with Panoz through its move into open-top prototypes, beginning with the LMP-1 Roadster S in 1999

Brabham remained with Panoz by way of its transfer into open-top prototypes, starting with the LMP-1 Roadster S in 1999

Photograph by: Motorsport Images

Successful the GT class at Sebring in 1998 alongside Andy Wallace, he and Bernard completed runner-up within the 1999 American Le Mans Sequence with victories at Portland and Petit Le Mans (joined by Wallace) over the Le Mans-conquering BMW V12 LMR, the primary of seven racked up with the distinctive-looking machine.

In 2001 and 2002, Brabham and Jan Magnussen twice inflicted unlikely defeats of the legendary Audi R8, doing his fame no hurt in any respect, and he lastly departed the programme to affix Bentley for 2003.

A collection of minor glitches meant he, Johnny Herbert and Mark Blundell missed out on a Le Mans 24 Hours victory to the sister automotive that includes Tom Kristensen, however Brabham would lastly emulate brother Geoff’s 1993 success with Peugeot by scoring an extended overdue outright win – having taken GT1 class honours with Aston Martin in 2007 and 2008 – in 2009, additionally with Peugeot.

Petit Le Mans victory in 1999 was one of the high-points in Panoz's racing history

Petit Le Mans victory in 1999 was one of many high-points in Panoz’s racing historical past

Photograph by: Motorsport Images

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