All-new Panoz the car to beat for 2001?

Next year's all-new Panoz Roadster is potential Le Mans 24 Hours winner first time out - that's the verdict of marque boss Don Panoz

All-new Panoz the car to beat for 2001?

"I think we've got a good chance," said the American on the unveiling of a 40% model of the car. "I thought that the first time we went back in 1997, but I'm smarter now. We know this car should be better than what we've got now [the two-year-old LMP Roadster S] and we're not that far behind."

The 2001 Panoz is a clean-sheet of paper design from the pen of Englishman Andy Thorby that takes advantage of bespoke Panoz engine built in conjunction with Zytek in Britain. Like all previous designs from the American marque, its engine is mounted up front ahead of the driver.

Thorby said: "The major objective was to make best advantage of the new engine, which is very low and has a low centre of gravity. Everything has been designed to complement that."

Thorby explained that the frontal area of the car had been reduced by approximately 12% over the existing Roadster S. "As a result the car is more efficient in terms of lift over drag, although we are not going to divulge any numbers."

The new Panoz powerplant replaces the Ford-based pushrod V8 used since 1997. Don Panoz said: "I think the Ford is the best engine out there, but we decided we could improve on that.

Zytek boss Bill Gibson said: "It's pretty obvious that if you put the engine in the front of the car that you've got to make it as small and as low as possible. We looked at all the scenarios and came up with a four-litre V8."

The Panoz engine weighs more than 70kg lighter than the Ford and hits the scales in endurance trim at 111kg, not far off a contemporary Formula 1 powerplant.

The new V8 has already completed 500 miles of trouble-free testing in a previous-generation Panoz, while the new car should hit the track at the end of October. Initial shakedown tests will be done in England, where the monocoque has been built, before the first chassis is shipped to Panoz HQ in the US.

The new car, which has yet to be assigned a type number, should make its debut in the finale round of this years American Le Mans Series at Adelaide on December 31. The team's number one pairing, David Brabham and Jan Magnussen, are expected to drive.

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