30 october 2017
The Panis-Barthez Compétition’s 2017 season seen by Olivier Panis
At Portimão, the chequered flag has fallen on the 2017 European Le Mans Series season. The #23 Ligier JS P217 of the line-up composed of Berthon / Barthez / Buret shone on track by a pole position on Saturday set by Nathanaël Berthon! Then, the drivers showed their top speed during the race, finishing 6th.
The team is finally ranked 7th in the LMP2 championship, with the best Bronze driver Fabien Barthez.
Now it is time for team-principal Olivier Panis, who ended his second season at the head of Panis-Barthez Compétition, to review the results.
The team has not stopped improving in LMP2 all throughout the season. What is your feeling about this second year in ELMS ?
Olivier Panis : " It is a real satisfaction for us to score points at each race in LMP2 and to have our work rewarded all throughout the season. By ending 4th at Le Castellet and getting the pole position at Portimão, the only one set by a Ligier this season, we have proved our potential. The team and the drivers have learned to get the most of this new Ligier JS P217. But, above all, our collaboration with Michelin has been extremely constructive and our choice of partnership with them was a real success. I have never been doubtful about their tyres and I would like to thank them for their involvement at our sides. We are going to have a review with the engineers but our will to go on with them is obvious. Our link with Michelin is really strong; we are going to work together about the 2018 development in a few days on Motorland track."
Your line-up in LMP2 this year was still composed of Fabien Barthez and Timothé Buret and was reinforced by the arrival of Nathanaël Berthon. What is your opinion about this trio at the end of the season?
“It was a homogenous line-up in which each driver had his role. Fabien has shown once again he was a very good Bronze driver. On five Bronze driver collective tests, he set the fastest lap three times. During the race, he is always consistent, diligent and, outside the car, he teaches the cohesion spirit to the youngest. Nathanaël succeeded in getting involved in the line-up quickly and was really fast to transmit the right information to the technical staff. He was able to improve at our sides and his pole position at Portimão is the proof of his work in collaboration with the staff and Michelin. Regarding Timothé, rookie last year, he went on confirming his growing potential and deserved the confidence we have in him. He is the perfect example of our will to see young drivers grow inside our team."
What is the programme for 2018?
"While waiting for 2018, I would like to thank each member of Panis-Barthez Compétition for the involvement all throughout the 2017 season. A big thank as well for all our partners for their support and the confidence they all have renewed.
For the next season, nothing has been officially decided up to now. We are studying different possibilities and programmes even if endurance in LMP2 remains our target in ELMS and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. We are waiting to know the possible decisions regarding the classification of the drivers because, at the moment, it is impossible to be at the front with Bronze drivers. To impose a Bronze driver in each line-up, apply a penalty of time or create a “Pro-Am” championship are some alternatives which would give a sporting fairness and motivate some teams to go on entering endurance championships.”