Former Formula V8 3.5 racer Aurélien Panis will race in the WTCC for 2017. The 22 year old Frenchman will join Zengo Motorsport driving a Honda Civic for the Hungarian Squad. The son of Monaco Grand Prix winner Olivier, makes the switch to tin tops after a successful single seater career. He started in French F4 in 2011 before progressing up through the ranks since then. This culminated in him finishing fifth in the Formula V8 3.5 series last season, taking two wins. He has also been a regular fixture in the Andros Trophy Ice racing series, where he finished 2nd in the Electric class for the last two seasons.
The WTCC will be Panis’ first taste of touring car racing, however he will not be the first to transition from single seaters to WTCC. Former Formula 1 driver Tiago Monteiro and treble champion Jose Maria Lopez both made the switch to WTCC. I’m very proud to join the WTCC,” said Panis. “It is a very strong international championship and a great step in my career. There are many experienced and successful drivers in the series so it will be a very exciting and tough challenge for me; I had better roll up my sleeves from day one. I’m proud to drive for a great team like Zengo Motorsports, which has won races in the past, and I am very honoured to join the Honda Racing Family.”
This will be the first time that Zengo hasn’t featured an all Hungarian driver line up. The team has always ran drivers from their home country. They ran Norbert Michelisz from 2011 guiding him to a Honda factory drive. Then they called up 20-year-old Ferenc Ficza and 18-year-old Daniel Nagy. Zoltan Zengo commented on their new signing saying. “We’re very pleased to confirm that Aurélien is joining our team for the 2017 WTCC season. Recruiting a non-Hungarian driver is a new direction for us but it’s an exciting one at the same time.”
Zoltan Zengo was key in easing Norbert Michelisz into the WTCC and helping him into the factory Honda squad last season. “In Aurélien we have signed a driver with great potential and a successful background in single-seater racing. Everything will be new for him but we’re good teachers, and we know a different approach will benefit the team and how we work. We’re confident Aurélien’s switch to the WTCC will be rewarding and we can’t wait to start working with him.”
Panis is due to get his first run in the official pre-season test at Monza in March. Zengo have also confirmed they will run a second car, however there is no news on who will pilot it.
Image: Formula V8