HYT announced its partnership with Panis-Barthaz Competition last year. This young racing team immediately caught the world’s attention thanks to its superstar French founders — ex-professional goalie Fabien Barthez, who led the French football team to its world championship title in 1998, and ex-Formula One driver Olivier Panis, who raced for 10 seasons and won the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix.
Panis isn’t driving in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but Barthez most certainly is, in his role as “Gentleman-Driver”. In the LM P2 (Le Mans Protoype 2) category, teams are comprised of two professional drivers and one amateur gentleman-driver.
There is nothing “amateur” about Barthez, however, as he takes his racing as seriously as he did his professional football career. “It is really tricky to drive these LM P2 cars, even for professional drivers,” explains Panis, “But Fabien has a lot of talent and we are really happy to have him on the team. He is disciplined, hard working and comes to training already warmed up. He is a true pro.”
Together with professional drivers, Nathanaël Berthon and Thimoté Buret, the trio will be racing in a car with a 4-liter V8 engine, delivering 600bhp.
New technical regulations have been introduced this year to favor an even fairer and safer competition. All LM P2 cars now use Gibson engine technology, Cosworth electronics and chassis from a choice of four accredited suppliers. There are also strict tire regulations and limitations to how much each team can spend on their car. The regulations were put in place to prevent larger teams investing heavily in research and development, therefore, depriving smaller teams from competing on a level playing field..
Now that every team is racing in more or less the same car, human input takes on an even greater role, whether from the drivers, the mechanics or the various engineers, who all work individually in making the race as fast as possible. Over the course of 24 hours a lot can happen and even the smallest tweaks and adjustments can add up to gaining seconds and winning.
The HYT Partnership
The HYT/Panis-Barthez Competition partnership came about thanks to an introduction made by a common friend. The two companies instantly found a connection. “HYT is a young brand, much like ourselves. This is the second year we have been working with HYT and we have got to know the team very well in this time. We’ve even visited the manufacture in Neuchâtel. The story really seduced us and I have always been a fan of watches so I didn’t need much persuading,” says Panis.
“It is also a watch that is very different from everything else on the market today. So HYT was a great fit for us. We also like that there is a human element to the story too.
“We have signed a partnership for three years and it is going really well. Firstly, because the watches are sublime, and secondly because they are technical and high-end, just like our cars.”
This wasn’t the only partnership that Barthez and Panis were passionate talking about. Panis used many of his team’s allocated press conference minutes to bring attention to a charity dear to the team’s heart — Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque — which helps children in need of heart surgery. All three drivers will race with a red heart on their suits to bring attention to this worthy cause.
The Barthez/Berthon/Buret team is confident about their chances over the weekend, and so are HYT, who will be watching their partner from the stands.
A new HYT/Panis-Barthez Competition watch collection is in the works and will be presented over the summer. It was shame that it wasn’t ready for this iconic race, but there were enough HYT-clad wrists in the pits to catch anyone’s attention! During the press conference, many of the other drivers could be seen glancing enviously at Barthez’s and Panis’s wrists. If the team wins this weekend, they will have even more to be jealous about!
June 18-19 – 24 Hours of Le Mans
July 17 – 24 Hours of the Red Bull Ring
August 28 – 24 Hours of Le Castellet
September 25 – 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
October 23 – 24 Hours of Estoril