Panasonic Toyota Racing
Olivier Panis to make race weekend return at French Grand Prix
Panis, who stepped down from Grand Prix racing after the 2004 Japanese Grand Prix will benefit from recently revised sporting regulations to assume control of the third car in Friday free practice at the Magny-Cours circuit on 1 July.
President of Panasonic Toyota Racing, John Howett said of the announcement: "Olivier was not eligible to drive the third car with the regulations as they were at the start of the 2005 season. But now this rule has been relaxed, we felt it would be a good opportunity to ask Olivier to drive the third car for the French Grand Prix, his home race. Olivier's reputation as a quick, technically-minded driver is well documented and he has contributed greatly to the success that we have enjoyed this season. Ricardo has a busy race and test schedule this year, so we believe that this decision will also allow him to enjoy a weekend off before returning for the British Grand Prix the following week."
Olivier Panis said: "I'm really looking forward to returning to the cockpit at Magny-Cours. I first raced at the circuit in 1994 so I have over a decade of knowledge of the track. Now I hope to use that experience to help Toyota at the French Grand Prix. I think it would be a big shame to go through the entire Magny-Cours race weekend without any French drivers. So as well as being productive for the team I hope to give something back to the spectators and to the French TV and press at the race. I hope it will be fun for everybody, productive for the team and I hope to enjoy myself!"
Olivier took part in 158 races over his ten year-long career as F1 race driver. He officially retired from racing following the 2004 Japanese Grand Prix after 33 races with Panasonic Toyota Racing, but signed a new two-year deal with the team in a testing capacity alongside Ricardo Zonta.