Panis Barthez Competition has seriously upgraded their European Le Mans Series LMP2 team for the 2018 season.
The team has removed the weakest links, and now enters one of the strongest possible line-ups possible in LMP2.
Timothe Buret is the only returnee on the French team, which is led by the former Formula 1 driver Olivier Panis. He started the team back in 2016 with the former football goalkeeper, Fabien Barthez. Barthez have been driving the LMP2 car himself so far, but steps aside and lets another driver take his seat.
And that is not a Mr. nobody. It’s the triple Le Mans winner, Julien Canal, who will take over the silver-seat in the car, while the former Formula 1 driver, and Le Mans winner, Will Stevens will be the third driver.
Julien Canal won the three 24 Hours of Le Mans victories with Larbre Competition in GT1 and GTE Am in 2010, 2011 and 2012. He then went on to driving two seasons with G-Drive Racing, where he was on the Le Mans podium in 2015. He drove the 2017 season for Rebellion Racing in the FIA WEC, and was part of the crew taking home the FIA WEC LMP2 title. Since Rebellion Racing advances to LMP1 for the coming Super Season, there was no longer space for Canal in the team, so he will instead return to ELMS, in which he participated back in 2016.
Will Stevens got 19 Formula 1 starts for Manor and a single race with Caterham, before that door closed for him. Instead he turned his sights on to sportscar racing, where he tried a mix of LMP2 and GT cars throughout 2016. He won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2017 with JMW Motorsport in the Ferrari 488 GTE in the GTE Am category, and then helped the team win the ELMS GTE title. Himself wasn’t crowned as a Drivers Champion, since he didn’t participate at all rounds.
Stevens has set his sights on LMP2, where he can be in the car up to 1 hour and 40 minutes, since he is a Platinum ranked driver. Canal and Buret will have to share the remaining 2 hours and 20 minutes, where each of the driver just has to do a minimum of 40 minutes each, in order to get the car classified, and score points.
The team has announced that they will run the same line-up at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.
But don’t be surprised if the red and black Ligier JS P217 with number 23 is mixing it up in the high end of LMP2 this year, in both the ELMS races and at Le Mans.
The team has run an LMP3 car too for the previous two seasons, but this year the focus will solely be on LMP2.
The season starts in three weeks at Paul Ricard in the south of France.