This week in the Pirelli Paddock Pass, we catch up with Team Panoz Racing driver Ian James about his 2018 season, racing for Don Panoz, and what he and the team hope to get from their entry in the upcoming California 8 Hours at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Did the 2018 season stack up with your preseason expectations?
“I think any season, you go into it looking to get race wins. We definitely did that. Then typically you want to win a championship and we came up a little bit short on that.
“Winning the Manufacturer’s Championship was a very highly esteemed award and it was great for Don Panoz to see that happen.”
With the benefit of hindsight, how special was it to deliver that title to Dr. Panoz?
“It was a special moment. He was a racer through and through, and the Manufacturer’s Championship was always what he prided himself in: beating the large-scale manufacturers. He got to do it one more time before he passed away.”
What stories stand out to you from your time racing for Dr. Panoz?
“He was definitely a “whatever it’s going to take” type of team owner. From 2009 through today, on and off I’ve driven for him in his cars.
“It was just amazing that he didn’t really want to know about the details, he just wanted to get the results. He would provide whatever was needed to get there.
“One funny side note, he always used to say that I came from Texas, which I don’t! Although he knew I didn’t live in Texas, that was our little joke. He always asked me how Texas was.”
What was the highlight of your season?
“I think the manufacturer’s championship was a highlight. The two wins at Road America were very special. We did that last year and the expectation wasn’t really to be able to do it again.
“To be able to do it again and win four in a row at Road America, that was a pretty special moment for me.”
What is the team working on in the offseason to jumpstart your 2019 campaign?
“Although the program is a power program, we only have two cars racing. We learn a lot on race weekends. We’ve been testing doing some endurance testing before the California 8 Hours. We figured out a few more areas that we need to address.
“The preparation of the cars is second to none, it was just a few little component issues that were outside of our control, and when you don’t have a fleet of cars around the world racing you don’t get the benefit of their collective input.
“That’s always going to be a disadvantage with a small, boutique manufacturer. We’ll be trying our hardest whatever next year brings.”
What are your goals for the California 8 Hours?
“We’re going there to try and win the class. Preston Calvert surprised a lot of people this year and he’s really come on in stride. He’s been driving really well.
“I think Matt Keegan has proved to everybody that he’s super fast and he has his head around the Panoz, which is great. With three consistent drivers, hopefully we can get to the end and get a victory. That’s our goal!”