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Panis to return in third driver role 20 May 2005

Olivier Panis (FRA) Toyota Test Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, 18 March 2005

Toyota have announced that Formula One veteran Olivier Panis will be back in race weekend action during July's French Grand Prix when he will serve as the team’s third driver.

Panis, who stepped down from racing after the 2004 Japanese Grand Prix will benefit from recently revised sporting regulations, allowing more experienced drivers to assume control of the third car in Friday free practice, at his home event on July 1.

"I'm really looking forward to returning to the cockpit at Magny-Cours,” he said. “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!"

Toyota team President, 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 (Zonta) 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."

Panis, 38, took part in 158 Grands Prix over his ten years as a Formula One driver. He officially retired at the end of last season after 33 races with Toyota, but signed a new two-year deal with the Japanese team in a testing capacity alongside Zonta.