Former Monaco Grand Prix winner Olivier Panis has announced that last weekend's 79th edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours was his final appearance in the round-the-clock La Sarthe classic, after finding himself taken aback by the sheer violence of the accidents suffered by Audi rivals Allan McNish and Mike Rockenfeller.
Panis made his debut at Le Mans with Oreca in 2008 and has competed there every year since, in addition to racing in the Le Mans Series and triumphing in the Sebring 12 Hours earlier this season. Last weekend, in company with countrymen Nicolas Lapierre and Loïc Duval, the Frenchman matched his best finish in the race dubbed the toughest in the world with fifth place, what he acknowledged was about the highest that could have been hoped for with the machinery at the trio's disposal.
Happy with his performance and the result, and pleased to see his erstwhile Oreca team-mate Marcel Fässler become the first Swiss driver ever to triumph at Le Mans [see separate story – click here
], Panis has now revealed that the images of McNish and Rockenfeller's terrifying high-speed shunts – in both cases, utterly destroying the new Audi R18 TDi and lucky indeed not to end in tragedy – have convinced him not to return for a fifth try.
Prior to the race, the 44-year-old had told Crash.net
that he would likely hang up his helmet were he to add to his Monaco success with Le Mans glory [see separate story – click here
“The accidents of Allan McNish and Mike Rockenfeller gave me a real wake-up call,” he admitted to French magazine Auto Hebdo
. “I no longer want to have to force myself to do things, and I've spoken about it with the team. The time has come to say 'well done', and 'goodbye'. Now, I'll leave my place to the younger drivers.”