HYT and the Panis-Barthez Competition Team
A Day at the Races
Angus Davies spends a day with unique watchmaker HYT and the Panis-Barthez Competition team at the Silverstone Circuit to learn more about the eponymous owners of the LMP2 team and discover more about its relationship with HYT.
Watches and motorsport are happy bedfellows. An appraisal of the Formula One grid reveals a plethora of cars sporting sponsorship logos for watch brands. In other racing categories, car and watch brand names can also be seen joined in blissful harmony.
HYT, the specialist Swiss watchmaker whose mastery of liquids distinguishes it from other horological brands, is a proud sponsor of the Panis-Barthez Competition Team LMP2 racing team. As the name implies, the team is partly owned by Olivier Panis and his good friend, Fabien Barthez.
Olivier Panis was a highly successful Formula One driver, having driven for Ligier, BAR, McLaren, Prost and Toyota. He won the Grand Prix de Monaco in 1996 and stood on the podium five times during his Formula One career. Moreover, he went on to become a sportscar racing driving for Oreca Courage team in 2010.
While the route for Olivier Panis to LMP2 racing was quite predictable having competed in various racing formulae, the path for Fabien Barthez was somewhat more unusual. Indeed, prior to motorsport, Barthez was a professional goalkeeper for a variety of football teams, including Manchester United, AS Monaco, Toulouse as well as the French national team.
Presented with the chance to spend a day with the Panis Barthez Competition Team and interview its two eponymous owners, I eagerly grasped the opportunity and travelled to the Silverstone Circuit to learn more.
The Interview with Olivier Panis (Team Principal)
Angus Davies (AD): Do you still have the desire to drive?
Olivier Panis (OP): Sometimes yes, but I don’t have time because I am managing the team. I also do TV commentating. I have had my time as a driver but now I don’t have time to do all of the preparations necessary.
AD: What are the psychological differences between being a driver and being the team principal?
OP: It is much easier to be a driver! As a driver you only have to think of yourself, everyone is helping you. It is necessary to be good mentally and perform well. As a team principal you have to do a good job for the drivers and team.
AD: How does the technology of sportscar racing today compare with your days in Formula One? What advances have been made?
OP: If you are discussing LMP2 now with the Formula One cars I drove in 2000, aerodynamically it is close while the engine and suspension are similar too. However, if you compare Formula One now with my 2000 car, the differences are huge, for example the hybrid engine. Also when I hear an engineer say change to ‘Map 9’ on the steering wheel, this does not feel like motor-racing.
AD: Did you choose your HYT Skull watch?
OP: Yes, I chose it because it said something to me. HYT impressed me when I visited the company in Switzerland. When I learned of the technology found within the watch I was amazed. Prior to this I always considered a watch to be a watch. I like the history, the passion and the fresh approach to watchmaking. The design of my Skull watch and the colour are to my taste. I love it.
The interview with Fabien Barthez (LMP2 Driver)
Angus Davies (AD): As an ex goalkeeper what skills do you bring to this racing team?
Fabien Barthez (FB): I bring all the key attributes of a professional sportsman to the team. This includes observation, quick reflexes and psychological preparedness. In addition, you learn to be humble, listening to the team and taking instructions.
AD: How is your fitness regime different in car racing compared with football?
FB: It is completely different. When I was a goalkeeper I was training all day, every day. I was doing three or four matches per week, but obviously I was much younger. The preparation for racing is not as complicated as when I was a goalkeeper. I have not changed much in terms of my fitness regime, except now I also swim and run .
AD: Did you select your own HYT timepiece? If so, why did you choose that particular model?
FB: I am currently wearing the H0. However, there will be a new HYT that we, the team, have designed and that will be unveiled in June. I will then wear this new watch.
AD: What are your objectives for 2017?
FB: To continue to experience the pleasure of racing. There is no pressure to win.
Surveying the garage at the Northamptonshire race track, the technology is bewildering with an array of screens, test instruments and measurement devices. I began to ponder if there were any similarities between HYT and the Panis-Barthez Competition team.
HYT’s products are patiently crafted. Speed and noise are absent during production as this could negatively influence the resultant timepiece. In contrast, the garage of the Panis-Barthez Competition team is a hive of activity, a world where noise and speed are essential elements for podium success.
However, where the two organisations share similarities is with their pursuit of excellence and their overwhelming desire to harness passion and create a successful outcome. Indeed, there is more to the relationship of these two companies than an exchange of logos and sponsorship. This is a marriage of kindred spirits and hopefully both companies will enjoy even more success with the passage of time.