JML Team Panoz stars Olivier Beretta and David Saelens stormed to their fourth consecutive podium finish in round seven of the 2003 American Le Mans Series at Laguna Seca, setting a new mark for the team.

The European duo had previously finished on the podium at Trois Rivieres, Mosport and Road America and continued that run by finishing second in the LMP900 class - and third outright - in California.

Beretta started from sixth on the grid and made a brilliant start aboard the #10 Panoz to slot into fourth position on the opening lap. The Diablo Grande Wines-sponsored car was then never troubled, running faultlessly throughout the race and picking up third place outright when the Champion Audi of JJ Lehto and Johnny Herbert was forced to make a gearbox change.

"I am really thrilled for all the team because getting four podium finishes in a row is great achievement," the Monegasque said afterwards, "I was able to make a really good start and basically had no problems at all at the start of the race. Everything really went to plan. Our fuel economy was perfect and Michelin's contribution to our performance can't be underestimated. We had a small problem with the seat belts when David got in the car but, other than that, our day really went exceptionally well."

Beretta pitted after 55 minutes to hand over to Saelens, who then completed a double stint on his Michelin tyres to bring the car home. The result marked a dramatically improved day for the JML squad, whose efforts were cut in half in qualifying when Benjamin Leuenberger crashed and eliminated the #11 car from the race.

"This is great for the guys on the team, and I am really pleased to bring home a result like this - especially since Gunnar [Jeannette] and Ben weren't able to start this race," Saelens said.

"I had a couple of close calls out there during my double-stint. I had two Ferraris spin right in front of me at the Corkscrew towards the end - that was very close - I only just missed the Prodrive car, which was rolling backwards back onto the track."

The four consecutive podium finishes is the first for the Panoz marque since 2001, when David Brabham and Jan Magnussen climbed the podium at successive races at Infineon Raceway, Portland, Mosport and Mid Ohio. The 'new' team has already set its sights on five consecutive podiums - a feat last achieved by the Panoz brand in the opening year of the American Le Mans Series in 1999 - when the series resumes in Miami at the end of the month.

 

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