Panis to Drive Third Toyota in France

Frenchman Olivier Panis will return to race weekend action during the French Grand Prix, driving the third Toyota on Friday, his team announced

Panis to Drive Third Toyota in France

Panis, who retired from Formula One racing at the end of the 2004 season, will replace regular third driver Ricardo Zonta at the Magny-Cours event in July.

"I'm really looking forward to returning to the cockpit at Magny-Cours," said Panis. "I first raced at the circuit in 1994 so I have over a decade of knowledge of the track. Now I hope to use that experience to help Toyota at the French Grand Prix.

"I think it would be a big shame to go through the entire Magny-Cours race weekend without any French drivers. So as well as being productive for the team I hope to give something back to the spectators and to the French TV and press at the race.

"I hope it will be fun for everybody, productive for the team and I hope to enjoy myself."

38-year old Panis signed a two-year deal with the team in a testing capacity, but under previous regulations he was overqualified to drive on Fridays.

The rules, however, were changed earlier this season, allowing experienced drivers to take to the track on Fridays prior to each Grand Prix.

"Olivier's reputation as a quick, technically-minded driver is well documented and he has contributed greatly to the success that we have enjoyed this season," said John Howett, Toyota racing's president.

"Ricardo has a busy race and test schedule this year, so we believe that this decision will also allow him to enjoy a weekend off before returning for the British Grand Prix the following week."

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