Don Panoz: 1935-2018

Don Panoz, founder of the American Le Mans Series and Panoz racecars, died yesterday aged 83

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Don Panoz, founder of American car racing manufacturer Panoz, has died aged 83. Born in 1935, the America went on to become one of the biggest names in American endurance racing, and had recently been living with cancer.

Panoz started his working life in the pharmaceutical industry, and helped develop the trandermal patch, most commonly known for its use in the nicotine industry. He then moved onto entrepreneurial exploits, most famously the Panoz racing team, which he started with his son Dan in 1989.

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It wasn't long before they were making their own cars, with which they started entering the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1997. Panoz picked up a single win at the famed French endurance circuit, with Team LNT taking victory in the GT2 class in 2006 with a Panoz Esperante GT-LM.

Such was Panoz’s influence in endurance racing in his home country that he was pivotal in the creation of the American Le Mans Series, which catered for prototype and GT cars that would normally be seen at Le Mans. The series merged with the NASCAR-owned GrandAm in 2014 to become IMSA. Petit Le Mans, hosted annually since 1998 and the jewel of the ALMS crown, was also a Panoz-led creation.

Panoz owns Road Atlanta, the host of Petit Le Mans, and previously owned Sebring Raceway and Mosport International Raceway, three of the most popular tracks in North America. Former IndyCar constructor G-Force Technologies and famous Formula Ford manufacturer Van Diemen were purchased by Panoz’s Élan Motorsport Technologies group, which also contained the Panoz brand of cars. Many of his motorsport assets were sold to help facilitate the creation of IMSA.

In recent years Panoz has still been involved in motorsport, becoming a partner in the distinct DeltaWing prototype that raced as an experimental entry at Le Mans and then in its own class in America. Previously he had launched the Panoz Abruzzi, which raced just three times, and was involved in the development of an all-electric car suitable for Le Mans, plans for which were recently shelved.

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