Team Panoz Racing team manager Tom Milner has praised the work put in to get the new Panoz Avezzano GT to the track for its competition debut in this weekend’s Pirelli World Challenge season opener in St. Pete.
The GT4-based car was built in less than 60 days, following the start of construction of the first chassis in early January, in what the out-of-retirement motorsports veteran said has been an all-hands-on-deck project.
“It definitely was a mass effort by everybody involved,” Milner told Sportscar365. “Whether it was the machine shop, the carbon shop, the car company or the racing team and the engineers.
“You know when it gets tight… They have all, without question stepped up.”
Ian James turned the car’s first laps in a two-day test at Road Atlanta last week, a test in which Milner said saw the 6.2-liter V8-powered beast complete roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes of track time.
Despite facing limited track time, James qualified 9th for this afternoon’s first of two GTS races, following PWC-approved restrictor adjustments from Thursday’s test and practice sessions.
Milner said the car ran without an air restrictor in qualifying, after PWC officials initially enforced one prior to the start of the weekend.
“In the original configuration we probably were not going to be competitive,” he said.
“The sanctioning body was very good in saying, ‘We want you to be competitive.’ We discussed it in the pits, they were there. They said, ‘Do this, do that.’
“I’m certainly happy. I think the guys are happy. I think the potential of the car is there.
“Are we as fast as the Camaro? No. Are we as fast as those other funny things that I don’t even know if you can call them cars?”
While currently running under the PWC GTS rulebook, Milner reiterated plans to pursue GT4 homologation, which would likely come for next year.
The only potential holdup could come with a required redesign of the fuel tank, which Milner said currently would obstruct a support bar on the roll cage that’s required per SRO GT4 regulations.
“In theory, next year, all cars have to be GT4 cars,” Milner said. “We’re talking amongst ourselves on what we’re going to do.
“There could be some complications. We’ll have to redesign something. So this year as a GTS car, I think it was a better choice for us.”
Panoz COO John Walton said they expect to meet the minimum production numbers, which is understood to be 30 units, although he couldn’t provide exact targets at this time.
“We’re looking at a long-term program with the Avezzano,” he told Sportcar365. “We’ll certainly project well beyond that.
“As Don has said, the road car is a serious part of our business, one we’re looking to grow, not only here but overseas.”
While development of the race car is expected to continue through the year, Milner said they’ve already learned a lot even in the early stages.
Updates to the car’s brakes, for example, are expected to be rolled out for the next round.
“It really is a new car,” he said. “It’s not an Esperante that we repainted, like some comments were made on social media!
“I think in the last few days, when they actually saw the car and we were testing in Atlanta, a lot of the people from the Panoz companies came out.
“You saw a smile on their face because Panoz is still about racing.
“You may have various opinions about this race car or that race car but that part of it great. But that was rewarding.”