At next month's 12 Hours of Sebring, Corsa Motorsports will be debuting it's new Zytek hybrid drive LMP1 car, but this is far from the first hybrid race car in the American Le Mans Series. Back in 1998, the Panoz GTR-1 was nearing the end of its life-cycle as a competitive race car. As a last hurrah for the GT1 car, Panoz teamed up with Zytek, the same company developing the system that's being run by Corsa, to create a hybrid racer. Like today's hybrids, this one paired a Zytek-built electric motor with the Ford V8 engine and a set of batteries to absorb energy from regenerative braking and feed it out for extra acceleration.

The reasoning was the same as that chosen by Audi and Peugeot for following the diesel path. By increasing fuel efficiency, the car could run longer between pit stops, reducing the amount of time standing still in the pits. The Panoz Q9's lack of testing time before the first run at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, meant it just failed to qualify. Later that year, Panoz entered the car, which was nicknamed "Sparky," again for the first running of the Petit Le Mans where it qualified and finished second in GT1 behind a Porsche 911 GT1. Unfortunately, the battery technology wasn't advanced enough at the time; the entire right side of the cockpit was filled with them. Although there were hybrids that popped up on the track now and again over the years, it would take another decade for hybrid race cars to run at the top levels of the sport.

[Source: American Le Mans Series]

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