Former Formula 1 racer Olivier Panis has been added to the driving strength for the Team ORECA-Matmut Peugeot 908 HDi FAP for the upcoming Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, as well as the subsequent two rounds of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. The Frenchman will join Nicolas Lapierre and Loic Duval, recreating the driving team from last year's 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“For the third driver we knew we had several options, each with different profiles,” said team owner Hugues de Chaunac. “We studied each candidate seriously, but Olivier showed so much drive that we agreed to do a test session. It was held last week at the Paul Ricard HTTT circuit and it went perfectly.”
Since his F1 stint, which included a famous victory for Ligier at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1996, Panis has focused on sports cars, scoring two Le Mans Series victories and a fifth place at the 2009 Le Mans 24 Hours.
“I must say that I was surprised by his motivation, which goes above and beyond what you would expect," added de Chaunac. "It's an important factor. He performed at the expected level, which is higher this year. Olivier is also a natural leader. Just from his charisma, he is more than just a driver. He was up to speed immediately and he has been an important element in the overall cohesion of the team for several years. He also knows the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP.”
Panis said he was pleased to get so quickly up to speed at last week's test at Paul Ricard: “I was happy to see the team again – there's still that nice atmosphere. I hadn't driven a prototype since Budapest last August and it was important for me to know where I stand, both in terms of driving and motivation. I'm satisfied with the times I put in and I really enjoyed myself. I'm not ready to retire (laughs)!