Ian James says Team Panoz Racing is motivated as ever for top results in Pirelli GT4 America, in what will be its first season of competition since the passing of its team founder.
The Braselton, Ga.-based squad, which enters the third year with the Panoz Avezzano GT, is set for a dual Sprint and SprintX program in honor of Don Panoz, who died in September following a battle with cancer.
Preston Calvert and Matt Keegan have teamed up for a season-long SprintX effort, while longtime Panoz driver James is set for a championship-seeking run in Sprint with the No. 50 Panoz.
Both cars are carrying the team’s signature stars and stripes livery, made famous on the Panoz LMP1 and also later seen on the Deltawing in the American Le Mans Series.
For James, who has taken on a dual driver/team management role for 2019, the morale inside the tightly-knit team is at an all-time high as it looks to defend the GT4 manufacturers’ championship.
“It means a lot,” James told Sportscar365. “Nancy, his wife, is very involved in it. She wants to know exactly what’s going on.
“We are racing in his honor and there’s a lot of passion in the team. But this was his love, so we’re determined to go out and do well in his name.”
While with a refocused program, in only a single Panoz entry in most races this year, James believes they have the ingredients for success.
The U.S.-based Englishman scored a season-high six victories last year between Sprint and SprintX competition, in what proved to be a competitive season in GT4.
“I’m hopeful that we have a successful year,” he said. “It all depends on the competition.
“The car’s good and the team operates at a very high level.
“But there’s some strong competition this year. It’s going to be mixed around, the last couple of years the competition has been pretty much the same, the same players.
“[But] there are a few [cars]. Porsche have a new car so should be strong, McLaren have a bit more of a concerted effort this year.
“I’m excited. I don’t know how deep the Pro field will be [in GT4 Sprint]. But the more competition the better.
“It’s going to be tough to have the success that we’ve had in the last couple of years, but it won’t be for the lack of trying.”
James said the program has only been confirmed for this year, although admits that anything can happen in the future, especially if the strong results continue.
“It’s all TBD at the minute,” he said. “Right now, there’s a commitment for this year, but that’s not to say that it couldn’t go beyond that.
“In racing, every year you have to perform. You have to do what you’re meant to be doing for it to live on.”