2016 Honoree Don Panoz

Don Panoz
The Atlanta Concours d’Elegance 2016 Honoree


Pharmaceutical industry entrepreneur Don Panoz may not have started his career looking to become one of the world’s most influential people in motorsports and endurance sports car racing, but the mark he has left on the community is undeniable. He is a man who has made a successful racing career by challenging accepted norms and succeeding.

Panoz wasn’t always a motorsports aficionado. His son Danny, who founded Panoz Auto Development in 1989 to follow his dream of building American sports cars, piqued his interest in the sport.

“In the 1990s I could see there were opportunities, so Dan and I brainstormed,” Panoz recalled. “But his passion was street cars. In those early days he really wanted to stay focused on his vision of creating special and exclusive sports cars like those coming from Europe but with an American character. So he said, ‘Dad, I’ll build the street cars. You focus on racing.’ That’s really how it started.”

In 1997, Panoz founded Panoz Motor Sport Group and commissioned the building of the Panoz Esperante GTR-1, which became the first successful front-engine endurance racing prototype race car in many years. From 1997-2002, Panoz Le Mans prototype race cars won eight endurance sports car championship races.

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In 1999 Panoz founded the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and the Petit Le Mans endurance sports car race, which is one of the largest car races in the world.

As part of his plan to make ALMS successful, Panoz then invested in three historic tracks: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (formerly Mosport International Raceway), Sebring International Raceway, and Road Atlanta.“These three tracks were so important to sports car racing in North America,” Panoz said. “There was so much history with so many famous drivers and great marques like Porsche, Ferrari, and Jaguar racing at Sebring, Mosport and Road Atlanta. The investment was a no-brainer. Both ALMS and the fans needed these tracks.”

Panoz’s passion for endurance racing lead him to begin working with DeltaWing. In 2010, L’Automobile Club de l’Ouest, organizers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, agreed to grant the DeltaWing team entry in the race at the urging of Panoz and a group of other supporters based on the criteria that the car featured green, environmentally-friendly technology. The DeltaWing Team met the criteria by producing a vehicle that featured less weight and overall mass, less aerodynamic drag, less engine horsepower and displacement, and reduced fuel consumption than traditional designs, yet able to compete with the rest of the field.

Panoz would continue his affiliation with this revolutionary race car, relocating all DeltaWing operations to his Braselton, Ga. campus.  Today, Panoz is the managing partner of Panoz DeltaWing Racing and chairman of the DeltaWing Technology Group.

In addition to racing, Panoz has turned his attention to decreasing automobile emissions and increasing fuel/energy efficiency. The lightweight and aerodynamic DeltaWing® architecture is being used as inspiration for designing street-legal cars that deliver fuel efficiency on par with the strict 54.5 mpg Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards planned to go into effect in 2025. In both a two-seat GT configuration or a four-passenger car, the DeltaWing® platform can accept the new generation of smaller and lighter high-efficiency gas or diesel powertrains, engines that operate on alternative fuels like compressed natural gas, or today’s and tomorrow’s hybrid and all-electric powertrains.

Join us on Saturday, October 8, 2016 as we honor Don Panoz during The Atlanta Concours d’Elegance Gala benefitting the Alzheimer’s Association. For tickets and more information about the event click here.