The Motul Petit Le Mans will come full circle on Saturday, as the founder of the race, Don Panoz, will give the start command at the 20th anniversary edition, as the event’s grand marshal.
Panoz, a successful entrepreneur who is most widely known in the pharmaceutical field for patenting the time-release technology used in nicotine patches, purchased Road Atlanta in 1996, prior to making major upgrades to the facility in preparation for the inaugural Petit Le Mans in 1998.
In addition to owning Road Atlanta and founding Petit Le Mans, also founded the American Le Mans Series, now the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“Before we founded Petit Le Mans, I hadn’t really been around motorsports and had only been to a few races,” said Panoz, chairman and co-founder of Georgia-based Green4U Technologies Inc. and its Panoz and DeltaWing Manufacturing divisions.
“When it came time to launch Petit, I wanted a fan-friendly race much what fans had in Europe.
“We established our ‘For the Fans’ mantra, which guided everything from establishing a stable rules platform to improving facilities and viewing areas to fan events like the autograph session and the grid walk.
“I’m proud of what we accomplished, and extremely honored to part of the 20th anniversary weekend.”
Over the years, Petit Le Mans has grown into one of the top motorsports destinations for fans and one of the most coveted endurance racing wins in the world.
Although Panoz subsequently sold Road Atlanta and the American Le Mans Series to NASCAR in 2012, his name remains synonymous with Road Atlanta, as he is the man who started it all.
“Petit Le Mans began with Don Panoz and it’s truly an honor to have him on the grid at the 20th anniversary of the race,” said Geoff Lee, president and general manager of Road Atlanta.
“Don had the vision back in 1998 for Petit Le Mans and over the years, it has become one of the most recognizable endurance races in the world. We wouldn’t be standing here without Don’s passion and support for the last two decades and although he has never asked for it, he deserves recognition for his grand contributions to our beloved sport.”