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Don Panoz: Dies at 83

 
Old 09-11-2018, 02:39 PM
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Don Panoz: Dies at 83

https://racer.com/2018/09/11/racing-...oz-dies-at-83/

Dr. Donald Panoz has died at 83. The pioneering pharmaceutical maven and racing innovator had taken ill in recent weeks, and those close to Dr. Panoz say he spent his final days surrounded by loved ones before passing on Tuesday morning.

Of Italian descent, the Ohioan made his fortune through the invention of the transdermal patch, and through his son Donny’s automotive interests, the Panoz automobile company was formed in the late 1980s and would serve as an eventual bridge to motor racing.

Through an alliance with Adrian Reynard’s UK-based design and manufacturing empire, Panoz made waves in the 1990s with the front-engine Esperante GTR-1 which took on more traditional rear-engine sports prototypes. Panoz and Zytek Engineering also broke new ground by outfitting a GTR-1 with a battery-based hybrid drive system which, nearly 15 years later would become standard among top-tier Le Mans Prototypes.

In North America and Europe, the Panoz Racing team made its mark in a variety of elite championships, winning numerous races with the evocative front-engine prototypes and later, on its own and as a supplier, with its production-based Esperante GT cars.

Panoz stepped in at a critical juncture to purchase IMSA, which had been bought and sold numerous times in the 1990s, and under his care, the American Le Mans Series was launched in its place. Along with purchasing a number of important historic racing circuits like Road Atlanta and Sebring, Panoz infused sports car racing with a fan-first approach and brought stability where it was sorely lacking.

With almost every major auto manufacturer having participated in the ALMS at some point, Panoz is credited for using his vision and resources to give sports car fans, teams, and drivers one of the most prosperous and beloved golden eras in motor racing.

Panoz was also committed to gender equality in racing, and through the Women’s Global GT Series he created to run alongside the upstart ALMS championship, a springboard was established for women to forge driving careers in sports car racing.

In the early 2000s, Panoz also stepped in to purchase the flagging G Force Indy car constructor, and through the investments made in developing the underperforming chassis, he took great pride in watching the rechristened Panoz G Force model capture consecutive wins at the Indy 500 from 2003-2004 with Team Penske and Rahal Letterman Racing.

Through his Elan Technologies firm in Georgia, Panoz’s reach in the sport grew from open-wheel and sports car manufacturing to engine building and composites work which, at its peak, was among the busiest and most diverse companies of its kind in the U.S.

Among the various projects Panoz undertook in recent years, his involvement with the open-top DeltaWing grew from taking on a project created by others to assuming full control of the program and building a new closed-top version that displayed impressive speed and potential.

In 2012, Panoz decided it was time to part with the ALMS and the numerous tracks he’d amassed. From the deal to sell those properties to NASCAR, Panoz seemed to find greater joy in focusing on his favorite side of the sport: conjuring and pursuing new ideas.

With the DeltaWing Racing program in full swing, Panoz was drawn back to the early exploits of “Sparky,” the hybrid Esperante GTR-1, and recently formed a new business, Green4U Technologies, with a goal of building and racing an all-electric prototype at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Although it did not reach fruition, the project demonstrated that Panoz’s desire to be different and break new ground remained undimmed even into his 80s.

Following the closure of the DeltaWing project, Panoz returned to his roots with an earth-rattling front-engine GT car, the Avezzano GT4, which terrorized the Pirelli World Challenge series upon its debut in 2017. The PWC’s 2018 GTS Sprint and Sprint-X manufacturers’ championships with the Avezzano GT4 bestowed more meaningful titles on his brand and team.

Few have done more to help motor racing than Dr. Panoz whose legacy, seen in the rising tides within IMSA, his commitment to forging new conventions with web-based radio and video streaming, and with unforgettable cars that captured some of the greatest prizes in the world, will be felt for decades to come.
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Old 09-11-2018, 06:14 PM
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Definitely made his mark in racing.
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Old 10-09-2018, 09:39 AM
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https://www.motorsport.com/imsa/news...panoz/3191872/

A DeltaWing coupe will return to the race track ahead of this weekend's Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in tribute to the late Don Panoz

The demonstration by the DeltaWing-Mazda DWC13 prior to the start of the endurance blue-riband event established by Panoz in 1998 is part of a celebration of the life of the entrepreneur, who died last month at the age of 83.

The DeltaWing will be joined at the track he rescued in 1996 by a number of other cars fielded by the Panoz team over the past 20 years. A Panoz Esperante GTR-1 that raced at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1998 will undertake a one-lap demonstration together with the DeltaWing prior to the start of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship finale on Saturday.

Cars on static display will include a Panoz LMP1-01 from 2002 and a recreation of the Esperante GT-LM that won the GT2 class at Le Mans in 2006.

The DeltaWing will be driven by Johnny O'Connell, who claimed the first American Le Mans Series victory for Panoz at Mosport in 1999. At the wheel of the GTR-1 will be Corvette Racing driver Jan Magnussen, who made his name in sportscar racing with Panoz and was O'Connell's teammate at Mosport.

Panoz's wife, Nancy said: "Don has a lot of history with the Road Atlanta track and this race.

"I’m very happy we can have two of his most iconic cars do a lap of the track and it’s nice to have both Jan and Johnny back in a Panoz. I know that it would have made Don very happy.”

Panoz was one of the investors in the DeltaWing project ahead of its 2012 appearance in the 'Garage 56' experimental grid spot at Le Mans.

His team took over the design for 2013 and continued to run the car in the American Le Mans Series and then the IMSA series until the end of 2016.
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Old 10-12-2018, 10:18 AM
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https://autoweek.com/article/imsa/re...-cars-business

Scott Atherton, president of IMSA, the sanctioning body for the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship series, remembers it as “the foreplay tour.”

Twenty years ago, Don Panoz, the millionaire visionary known primarily as the leader of the team that developed the transdermal method of medication delivery – known commonly as the nicotine patch – had purchased the struggling assets of the Professional Sports Car Racing Association, which included IMSA, Road Atlanta, Sebring International Raceway and Mosport in Canada, and needed help running it all, especially his new American Le Mans Series.

Atheron was in charge of California Speedway, first for its builder, Roger Penske, then the International Speedway Corporation, which bought Penske’s tracks.

From the blue, Atherton got a call that informed him Panoz was interested in hiring him to run it all. Intrigued but only mildly interested, Atherton showed up at Panoz’s near-mansion in Georgia, where they drank iced tea on the front porch until past midnight.

The next morning, they took Panoz’s private jet to visit Mosport in Ontario, then Road Atlanta, then Sebring in Florida, and finally at a commercial airport so Atherton could fly back to Los Angeles.

That dizzy 24-hour tour was one Atherton would never forget. He took the job and became employee number one. Unfortunately, it would be a while before they tired numbers two, three, four… There were, Atherton understates, “challenging aspects” of working for Don. “But he gave me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I tell people that sports car racing would not be where it is today without him.”

Donald Panoz -- often referred to Dr. Donald Panoz, thanks to an honorary doctorate of business conferred by the West Virginia University School of Business, and before that, an honorary doctorate from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and he loved being called “Dr. Don,” -- died Sept. 11 at his home in Duluth, Georgia, after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 83.

His accomplishments, as well as his less frequent failures, were on a grand scale, impressive since he was the son of a second-generation immigrant from Italy who initially made a living as a professional boxer, with a record of 124 wins, two losses before “retiring” at 22. Panoz’s mother was a Quaker of Irish descent, and the hereditary source of Don’s bright red hair.

As a child growing up in rural Ohio, Panoz’s first job was selling tomatoes on the roadside from the family’s small farm, which lit the flame of entrepreneurship. After he served in the U.S. Army, Panoz and an Army buddy opened several drug stores, then started Milan Pharmaceuticals. After inventing the nicotine patch, he started Elan Corporation In tax-friendly Ireland, which became an international leader in the drug industry.

It became a source of amusement to those who knew Panoz that despite inventing the nicotine patch, he continued to chain-smoke to the end, preferably puffing on the very potent British brand, Silk Cuts. One of the main reasons Panoz insisted on traveling aboard his big Challenger 600 private jet was because no one could tell him he couldn’t smoke.

There was a time a Nissan employee and I picked up Panoz, Atherton and several other executives at the airport in Nashville, where we’d discuss Nissan’s role in the Delta Wing race car, which Panoz was financing. When Panoz’s jet landed and the door was opened, the cloud of smoke coming from the plane preceded Panoz and his passengers, who, unlike Don, were gasping for fresh air. It looked like a scene from a Cheech and Chong movie.

“That was every trip with Don,” Atherton said, laughing. “I have never smoked a cigarette in my life, but from working with Don for 14 years, I figure I’ve smoked the equivalent of about two packs a day in secondhand smoke.”

Panoz recognized the irony. Even in his later years, “Tar and nicotine are all that’s holding me together, he said.

When Panoz bought the IMSA package from racer-millionaire Andy Evans, it was “the darkest days of sports car racing in the U.S.,” Atherton said. Panoz had little interest in racing, starting his involvement to help his son, Danny, sell the Panoz street cars he was building.

But Panoz couldn’t stop with that, investing millions in the ALMS until he eventually sold it to NASCAR for a rumored bargain price of $8 million. Under the leadership of Jim France, NASCAR combined it with Grand-Am into the IMSA WeatherTech series, retained Atherton to help run it, and the result is a unified sports car presence that is arguably the strongest the U.S. has seen in decades.

Panoz had multiple passions, as mentioned, mainly driven by dares. He was told that it was impossible to produce fine wine in Georgia, so he built the 3,500-acre Chateau Elan and planted grapes next to it, as he did at St. Andrews Bay Resort in Scotland and the Diablo Grande Winery and Resort in California, which he listed as one of his few failed business ventures.

He loved golfing, counting among his friends legendary golfers like Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen, and his resorts all have world-class, professionally designed golf courses on the grounds.

His involvement in big-time sports car racing began when Panoz was famously told that a front-engine car with an American V8 would never again be competitive at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and he took that as a dare, hiring famed designer Adrian Reynard and overseeing development of the fierce GTR-1 in 1997, powered by a NASCAR-style Ford V8. Panoz hired top drivers; in fact, after Mario Andretti crashed one of his cars, Panoz -- famously saying he thought he had just killed Mario Andretti -- grabbed a lit cigarette from a crewman and began smoking again, after quitting months earlier.

After that, Panoz’s automotive interests were all over the place. He was enamored with the French in general, Le Mans in particular, and started the American Le Mans Series because he thought U.S. sports car racing had become too provincial. This put the ALMS and Grand-Am into direct competition, until Grand-Am and parent company NASCAR bought Panoz out. But that left Panoz without a project. He was a man who pledged never to retire -- and, in fact, he didn’t. He adopted the flailing DeltaWing program, again, because people said it would never work, writing check after check until, in partnership with Nissan, the car actually debuted amid fanfare Le Mans hasn’t seen since, running well as an experimental Garage 56 entry until being taken out by a Toyota.

The DeltaWing program did not end well, resulting in a lawsuit Panoz filed against Nissan -- stunningly, Panoz told Autoweek that it was the first time he ever personally sued anyone -- for theft of intellectual property, convinced Nissan poached technology Panoz paid for in general, and took the Delta Wing’s designer, Ben Bowlby, in particular. There was a settlement, and while the results are sealed, Panoz was very pleased with the result.

I covered the controversy, and was arguably the first to realize, after reading the lawsuit, that Panoz had Nissan over a barrel. Once it was settled, at a Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Panoz summoned me to his room at the Chateau Elan hotel he has built at the track, largely because he wanted a nice place to stay.

As the Twelve Hours ran underneath the window of his room, Panoz spent more than an hour telling me why he had sued Nissan. I emerged much enlightened, with a lot of information I couldn’t write about, and for the rest of the race I smelled like Silk Cuts. One thing I can reveal: Panoz saw to it that there was a warrant for the arrest of Bowlby and then-Nissan racing executive Darren Cox, should the two Europeans ever show up in Georgia.

Panoz’s passion also led to his final racing-related challenge: Nissan made a big deal out of making some laps at Le Mans under electric power, and Panoz was planning an all-electric assault on Le Mans with the Green4U Panoz Racing GT-EV, which was displayed at the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans.

It can be revealed here that the project was canceled, which the company never fully admitted. A press release was prepared but never circulated that said: “Don Panoz has decided not to move forward with the Green4U Panoz Racing GT-EV project. He is instead focusing his resources on Green4U Technologies Inc and bringing its lineup of electric vehicles to market.”

It was, as Panoz told Autoweek, and then in his autobiography, his “holy grail.” Sad that it was never completed.

Also sad was that word circulated the week before Panoz died that the Green4U project, developed to market electric vehicles, has ceased operations, and some longtime employees were laid off. It is not clear at this point what will become of the two-car Panoz Avezzano Pirelli World Challenge racing program, which won the 2018 GTS Sprint/Sprint X manufacturer’s championship.

In his official obituary, his company included this: “In addition to all the career, business and work achievements, Panoz was a family man, a comedian, an inspiration, a philanthropist, an innovator, a visionary and most importantly, a wonderfully entertaining human to be around.”
That pretty much covers it.
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Old 10-13-2018, 07:31 AM
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Fascinating guy
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Old 10-15-2018, 01:07 PM
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RIP The Don
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