The JML Team Panoz assault on the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca round of the American Le Mans Series has been cut in half following a qualifying crash by Benjamin Leuenberger Saturday.

While Olivier Beretta and David Saelens will start from position six on the grid Sunday, Leuenberger and Gunnar Jeannette will be forced to watch from the sidelines.

After turning in a faultless performance during practice, Leuenberger spun the #11 Panoz exiting the corkscrew in the early minutes of qualifying - backing the car into wall.

The car struck the wall with the left rear corner, causing extensive damage. Leuenberger was checked out by the ALMS medical team but was uninjured in the crash.

The incident is a set-back for the two 21-year-old stars who had made significant gains during the morning practice after switching to a similar car set-up to the #10 Panoz.

The damage will force the team to miss Sunday's event with the #11 car, leaving the #10 machine to fly the flag for the JML squad.

"I am really disappointed - this is not the way we wanted to finish the weekend," commented Leuenberger, "The car got loose coming out of the corkscrew and came around on me. It was a pretty hard hit. My head is spinning a bit at the moment and I have a headache but other than that, I am OK.

"I really feel for Gunnar and the crew. Everybody has worked so hard and now we have a lot more work to do when we get back to the workshop. I was really looking forward to racing here but now I will have to watch from the sidelines. Doing my first qualifying was going to be a big thrill, but it certainly didn't turn out as I had hoped."

Jeannette added: "Today [Saturday] is a bit of blow for the points but we now have to turn our attention to the next round of the championship in Miami. We actually made some great improvements in the morning - the car was a lot better than Friday and we were really making progress.

"Ben is pretty disappointed but he is OK - that is the main thing. Both of us were pretty keen to take a shot for the podium but we will be back to fight again another day."

The single qualifying session was shortened by the crash, but Beretta was able to post a time of 1 minute, 18.267 seconds - putting he and Saelens sixth on the grid for Sunday's 2 hour, 45 minute race.

"The car has been getting and better all weekend and we probably could have gone a little quicker in qualifying if the session hadn't been shortened," said Beretta, "The race Sunday is going to be really interesting because I think our race package is quite strong.

"It is tough for us to squeeze a single flying lap in qualifying, but our race speed over the past few weeks has been pretty good. Michelin gave us a few different tyre combinations to try Friday and we have been able to do some longer runs in prepartion for the race."

Saelens continued: "We improved the car quite a lot during the practice sessions and Oli did a very good job in qualifying. Our main goal was to work on a car that would be very strong for the race and I think we are in a pretty good position. Improving the understeer has been the key target and the car is now a lot better balanced.

"It was really unfortunate what happened to the #11 - I am sure Ben and Gunnar are pretty disappointed. Oli and I will have to fly solo Sunday but both of us are very keen to continue our run of podium finishes."



Loading Comments...