by Russell Atkins


Despite Lo?c Duval announcing that Durban was his last time out in the World Cup of Motorsport in 2007/08 due to clashing Formula Nippon and Super GT commitments in Japan, Olivier Panis remains hopeful of persuading A1 Team France's talisman driver to return to give the outfit a boost in its challenge for the crown.

Duval has led the squad to no fewer than seven rostrum finishes from twelve outings this season - including les bleus' first victory in the fiercely-contested nation vs nation series since February, 2006. With the championship now returning to the scene of that maiden campaign triumph - Mexico City - this weekend, and France lying second in the title chase, Panis knows it is time to pull out all the stops.

"I really hope [Durban was not Duval's last race]," the team's advisor insisted, speaking exclusively to Radio. "I feel very good about him, he's doing a really good job and he's really fast. I hope we can convince him to race again, otherwise we will need to find the best driver we can to finish the championship.

"We have Nicolas Prost who is going better and better; maybe we will put him in for a race at the end of the season depending upon where we are. We have a few drivers who would do well, so we have to wait and see what Lo?c decides."

Indeed, as France's leading light in its championship charge this season, Duval's presence or lack of could yet be crucial in helping to cement or dash the hopes of a team that currently lies in the thick of a three-way tussle at the top, ten points adrift of leaders Switzerland and the same margin ahead of third-placed New Zealand. South Africa, Germany, Great Britain and the Netherlands all still remain in the hunt too with three meetings remaining on the calendar.

"I'm really pleased because the French team is doing really well," former Monaco Grand Prix winner Panis underlined. "For sure I have had a big racing programme over the winter time with the Troph?e Andros and now the Le Mans Series, but I want to help A1 Team France as well.

"I feel a good ambience with them, and we will work hard to try to win the championship. That's very important for the French team and for Jean-Paul Driot, and I will be there at the last two meetings to help them.

"Both teams [Switzerland and New Zealand] are doing pretty well. [Neel] Jani is doing a pretty good job, but Lo?c is pretty quick too. It's a very challenging series, the fight is at a really high level and mistakes are easy to make.

"Now we need to be focussed on the car to give the driver the most confidence we can in the equipment, make as few mistakes as possible and win the championship."

To read the interview in full, click here




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