Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA
Don Panoz, the co-founder of Panoz cars and creator of the American Le Mans Series, has passed away Tuesday at the age of 83.
Panoz died after a short battle with pancreatic cancer.
One of the most influential figures in the world of motorsports, Panoz founded the ALMS in 1999, while going on to achieve success with his automotive brand as well, on both the prototype and GT racing fronts.
The Panoz Esperante GT-LM claimed class wins at both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Twelve Hours of Sebring in 2006, following near-decade a run with GTP and LMP1 machinery in sports car racing worldwide.
Panoz was instrumental in bringing ACO-spec racing to North America, first with the Petit Le Mans in 1998 and the creation of the ALMS one year later, through a licensing agreement with the French organization.
The ALMS grew into one of the leading motorsports series in the world, prior to its merger with the NASCAR-owned Grand-Am in 2012 to form the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
While having held a position as honorary vice-chairman of IMSA, Panoz continued as a team owner and constructor, taking on the DeltaWing program and most recently, development of the Panoz Avezzano GT4, which claimed the 2018 Pirelli World Challenge GTS manufacturers’ championship.
In addition to series and team ownership, Panoz had also owned Mosport International Raceway as well as Road Atlanta and ran Sebring International Raceway prior to sales to a Canadian consortium and NASCAR, respectively.
Panoz, a pioneer in the medical industry with the invention of the time-release patch, recently expanded his automotive company into China with Green4U Technologies, with the creation of electric vehicles.
His passing ironically came on Sept. 11, a day Panoz held closely in remembrance, with tributes to the nation’s firefighters and service workers having been adorned on Panoz race cars since the tragic events in 2001.
Panoz leaves behind his wife of 63 years Nancy; sons Danny and Chris; daughters Donna, Dena, Lisa and Andrea, along with many grandchildren and great grandchildren, and numerous longtime friends and business associates from around the world.
Sportscar365 sends its condolences to the Panoz family.
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report