Panis-Barthez Compétition has announced it will compete in this year’s full European Le Mans Series (ELMS) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans with two cars.
As its name indicates, the outfit is the result of the association between former Formula One driver Olivier Panis, 1998 football world champion Fabien Barthez, and also Renaud Derlot, advisor to Jean-Eric Vergne, former F1 competitor and driver manager.
“My role as team principal is to oversee the entire project and convey my experience. In parallel, Renaud Derlot has the responsibility to lead the sports part, detect future driver and be in charge of the coordination. Fabien Barthez in his racing quality will, in turn, be the spearhead of this new team,” Panis said.
“I want to thank Jacques Nicolet and all Onroak Automotive team for their contribution to the culmination of this project. Our determination is great and our aspiration is, in the short term, to win the ELMS and the 24 Hours of Le Mans,” he added.
Derlot, for his part, said the team hopes to give opportunities for young drivers to compete with the established teams in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“Our goal is to build on our past achievements on the track. We hope Panis-Barthez Compétition becomes a springboard for young drivers to access LM P1 and to win over big constructors,” he added.
One Ligier JS P2 in LM P2 will be entered with Barthez at the wheel and the second car will be a Ligier JS P3 in LM P3 with Eric Debard driving. Debard is well known in GT racing in France as he was the champion of France FFSA GT. The other drivers will be announced in the near future. The two Ligiers powered by Nissan, recalled Guy Ligier, raced in a bygone era of French motor sports that is historically linked to Panis’s career.
The engineering, logistics and tech¬nical studies office will be entrusted to Simon and Sarah Abadie, founders of the structure Tech1 Racing, famous in the single-seaters world, specifically in Formula Renault 3.5.
“My sister Sarah and I are very enthusiastic about joining and being associated with Olivier and Renaud in this big project. We are looking forward to meeting the challenge in endurance and pooling our skills. It’s all about the human adventure, above and beyond motor sports, a shared passion: young drivers,” Abadie said.
A first test session was already conducted in December at the Navarra circuit in Spain to assess the cars and young drivers. Panis-Barthez Compétition will make its first official appearance at the Le Castellet circuit for the official ELMS tests on March 23 and 24, then will head to the United Kingdom to compete in the first ELMS round on April 17 at Silverstone.
The team has also submitted an entry request to the 24 Hours of Le Mans Selection Committee for its Ligier JS P2 to be eligible to compete in the upcoming edition of the endurance race scheduled on June 18-19, 2016.