NOVEMBER 29, 1999
Olivier's fighting spirit
OLIVIER PANIS is in line for the second Williams drive because of his fighting spirit and evidence of this was given in court in Nevers at the end of last week when the Frenchman came before the local magistrates to answer charges relating to an incident at Magny Cours in May when Panis and some of his friends had gone to the circuit's kart track to have a little fun. A local cafe owner named Stephane Calem was also in action at the track and he and Panis somehow managed to collide. The circumstances of the accident are not clear but Olivier and his fitness trainer Patrick Chamagne were both deeply upset about the crash and the pair came to blows with Calem. The cafe owner says he was knocked to the ground and was then kicked by Panis. Olivier admitted that he lost his temper and regretted what had happened.
Panis's lawyers claimed that there was no damage done and alleged that Calem used the incident to try to blackmail Panis into offering him a settlement. They claim that he wanted Panis to get him a job in the French Formula 3 Championship. Panis, they claim, decided to call Calem's bluff and face the bad publicity over the incident rather than giving in to such pressure. The court will consider the case and deliver a judgement just before Christmas.
The timing of the case could not have been worse for Olivier as he looks to a future with either McLaren-Mercedes or Williams-BMW...
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