Panoz will return to GT racing in 2017, with a two-car full-season Pirelli World Challenge GTS effort with the new Panoz Avezzano GT4 car.
Team Panoz Racing announced Friday that Ian James has been named the first of two team drivers. James will campaign the No. 50 Panoz Avezzano, starting with the season-opening round at St. Petersburg in March.
James, a former Panoz GT driver with PTG, will be reunited with both Don Panoz and Tom Milner, who is overseeing development of the new GT4-based car.
“I am very excited to be back behind the wheel of a Panoz race car and entering the exciting World Challenge series,” James said.
“The GTS platform is the wave of the future and I expect the new Avezzano to be a contender.”
The team expects to announce its second driver in the near future.
The Braselton, Ga.-based manufacturer has been developing the Avezzano race car while ramping up production of the Panoz Avezzano street car, Panoz’s first new sports car since the Esperante.
The all-carbon fiber race car features a wide-body configuration with clear-coated carbon fiber splitter, side skirts and rear diffuser and GT race car style side exhausts.
The new Avezzano features the next-generation of the Panoz-designed extruded aluminum chassis; a completely new rear suspension design; and an upgraded suspension, brake and wheel package.
It is powered by a 6.2-liter, 450-plus horsepower Panoz/Èlan aluminum block V8 and six-speed manual transmission.
Avezzano street car production is underway, with first customer cars expected this summer.
“After a few years of taking a step back from racing, I’m excited to be back and especially with my good friend Don Panoz and his team,” Milner said.
“Very happy to have Ian join us and we plan on giving the competition a hard time.”
The team plans to begin testing in early March, prior to the season-opener.
According to a team representative, the car has been approved to compete in the GTS class as they work towards GT4 homologation.
It’s understood a homologation request for the car has not yet been made to SRO, the governing body for the GT4 platform.