Renamed Panis Racing team, led by Olivier Panis and still managed by Sarah and Simon Abadie, was back on track last week for a fifth season in the European Le Mans Series. Newcomer Nico Jamin has joined the well-established Will Stevens and Julien Canal, in the tricolour team for a third season.
It was an intense week of work for the technical staff and the drivers that led the team to fight for the podium during the first third of the race. Unfortunately, bad luck hit Julien Canal, 4th in the race when a suspension failure brought the #31 Oreca to an abrupt end.
36 cars, including 15 in the LMP2 class, started the 2020 ELMS opening round, postponed for more than 3 months due to the Covid 19 pandemic. It took place behind closed doors on the 5.579 km Paul Ricard circuit for both the Prologue and the 4 Hours of Le Castellet. No doubt the fans were truly missed by all the competitors in the paddock, but safety is even now the main priority.
Following the qualification by Will Stevens on Saturday, Nico Jamin started the race on Sunday at 11:00 am from an encouraging 7th place on the grid aboard the Oreca 07 #31. A cautious start put him in 8th place behind the Russian Konstantin Tereschenko (Duqueine Team). Then, a bad manoeuvre by a competitor on lap 5 in the Signes curve forced him to yield 3 places down to P11. From that point, he started to fight back, overtook rivals and finally regained his initial 7th place just an hour after the start, before returning the car to the pits on lap 38 for Julien Canal to take over.
The native of Le Mans driver came out under Full Course Yellow and overtook Alexandre Coigny (#37 Cool Racing) and then Dennis Andersen (#20 High Class Racing) after the green flag. In doing so, he moved to P4 after one hour and half of racing. Unfortunately, a few minutes later, he lost the car due to a mechanical failure (a broken suspension part) and hit the tyres wall, causing the #31 to retire.
Olivier Panis – Team Principal : “We were really happy to be back on track with the team to finally get into a race in 2020 after this very complicated period. We have a great line-up. Will Stevens pure talent is no longer to be proven, as well as his technical skills. Julien Canal as a hugely experienced endurance driver also brings a lot to the team. But the essential novelty this year is the newcomer Nico Jamin who is not only a driver with an impressive top speed and a hard worker but also a great human asset with the unanimous support of our team. Our solid trio has worked a lot during the private testing and since they joined forces. It’s a real disappointment not to be rewarded and to retire from a race where everything was in place to finish quite on top around the Paul Ricard circuit.
Because of the tyres performance, this year’s cars are going much faster than last year and are sorely tested. We need to work with the other teams, manufacturers and constructors on that matter to limit the damages.
In the meantime, we’re going to roll up our sleeves and prepare for the 4 Hours of Spa!”
Nico Jamin – Oreca 07 #31driver : “I already feel very comfortable within the Panis Racing family, and the osmosis with my teammates is ideal. We have pretty much the same feedback on the car, and our understanding on and off the track is really good. I quickly got the confirmation that our performance level was high during private testing, and this was even more evident throughout this week at Le Castellet.
We were racing for the top three, but, unfortunately, the mechanical failure ran over our efforts. I’m optimistic for the season ahead because we have the potential to fight at the front.
The team is solid with Olivier Panis, Simon and Sarah Abadie strong competitive spirit, and the work done by the engineers and the whole team bodes well for the future !”
Julien Canal – Oreca 07 #31 driver : “I was really looking forward to getting back to the team after that period of confinement due to the Covid outbreak. From the very first test sessions, I enjoyed some good moments with my new teammate Nico Jamin, with whom I got along very well right away. He’s an extremely fast driver who shares the same feedback as Will and I in the car. It’s a major asset for the whole team in terms of set-up. Everything is in place to do great things this year.
My teammate Nico Jamin had a tricky start in the pack, but he made it through. We made the right choices, and a good pit stop allowed me to gain two places in my first stint. We were 4th, with a great pace. But, a little before mid-race, a broken connecting rod – independent of any fault – sent me off-track. The race was over for us”
Source. Panis Racing