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Friday favourite: The underdog Panoz pair that punched above their weight

Fighting against the mighty Audis with a Panoz meant David Brabham and Jan Magnussen were usually on the back foot. But giant-killing successes in the American Le Mans Series were the product of an effective partnership that makes the Dane Brabham's favourite team-mate

David Brabham, Jan Magnussen, Panoz LMP Roadster S

From a career spanning four decades, including Le Mans 24 Hours success with Peugeot in 2009 and two stints in Formula 1, David Brabham says that it’s from his time racing alongside Jan Magnussen that he has the fondest memories.

While Brabham was racing in F1 for Simtek during 1994, Magnussen was dominating British Formula 3, taking 14 wins from 18 starts. After his own spell in F1 with McLaren and Stewart Grand Prix, the rapid Dane has since enjoyed a decorated sportscar career, which started with a successful stint alongside Brabham at the unfancied Panoz squad in the American Le Mans Series.

“If I was to say the team-mate I had the most fun with, the most competition with, it was Jan Magnussen,” says Brabham. “When he came to Panoz, he’d just come out of F1. I would be the one setting up the car and getting everything sorted for the race.

“I’d come into the pits and he’d be sitting there like [puffing a cigarette], ‘Is the car ready, Brabs?’ Puts the fag out, jumps in and off he goes and he’d be like a tenth quicker, so then I’d have to beat him. Every time we got to the end of the weekend, whoever was quicker got a dollar!”

After taking their first win ahead of BMW and Audi in treacherous conditions at the 2000 Nurburgring 1000Km, the pair upstaged the otherwise dominant Audi R8s to score another four outright ALMS triumphs over the two next seasons, including a thrilling victory by 0.4 seconds at Portland in 2002.

Brabham says he and Magnussen were different personalities, but the pair complemented each other well

Brabham says he and Magnussen were different personalities, but the pair complemented each other well

Photo by: James Bearne

That giant-killing form never translated to Le Mans however. Partnering up with Mario Andretti in 2000, their LMP-1 Roadster-S finished 53 laps down in 15th overall, the Magnussen-Brabham pairing's only finish at Le Mans in three attempts.

The duo continued to race together in 2003, scoring two GTS class wins in their Prodrive Ferrari 550 Maranello, before in 2004 Magnussen embarked on a long career with Corvette that frequently pitched him into battles against Brabham in Prodrive-run Aston Martins.  

"We really pushed each other and that’s what helped us beat Audi, BMW, Porsche and so forth"
David Brabham

“He was so different to me,” explains Brabham, who picked Bathurst as his favourite circuit in 2023. “Different in personality, lifestyle, driving technique, but we complemented one another as well. It was just good fun to be around him because everyone used to look at his life, the mad world that he was in at that point, and we’d all have a chuckle.

More favourite team-mate stories:

“You could see with his junior category pace he was damn fast and he was obviously a lot younger than I was. We really pushed each other and that’s what helped us beat Audi, BMW, Porsche and so forth. We had those little opportunities and because of that relationship we punched well above our weight.”

A much-delayed run in 2000 marked the only time Brabham and Magnussen saw the finish at Le Mans when paired together

A much-delayed run in 2000 marked the only time Brabham and Magnussen saw the finish at Le Mans when paired together

Photo by: Motorsport Images

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