Panoz is a name that’s woven so tightly into the fabric of motorsports that few even know it’s there tying everything together. Dr. Don Panoz was a true renaissance man, as he found its fortune in the pharmaceutical industry before turning his immense passion and resources into the American motorsports industry. His son, Dan, also grew interested in the automotive and racing industry.
The mark that the Esperante and the Roadster left behind are significant, but did you know that Panoz was responsible for a little grassroots racing series by the name of the American Le Mans Series? Or that he also ran a couple of podunk local tracks; maybe you’ve heard of Road Atlanta, Mosport, or Sebring?
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I really believe that Don Panoz saved Mosport from getting in the hands of greedy property developers, as it was in a dire financial state when he took over. For this alone...myself and many other racers will be eternally grateful.
I had the pleasure of having a very insightful conversation with him while overlooking the Mario Andretti straightaway at Mosport during IMSA qualifying one year. Always approachable and extremely humble, he really was an under appreciated automotive titan who did a great deal for racing in North America.
We were fortunate to meet Dr. Panoz on several occasions over the years. He and his wife had another successful operation locally, Chateau Elan, Brazelton, Ga. Dr. Panoz created two world class golf courses, a hotel and winery of international distinction and an area of elegant homes . Chateau Elan has been the site of many auto mark displays over the years. Truly a renaissance man.
When I had my auto test drive column for the Hersam/Acorn papers in CT, I was able to drive the AIV roadster for a short period of time. What a hoot! It's what the Plymouth Prowler should have been. And a shout out to IMPA (International Motor Press Association) for helping smooth the way to test many cars, and drive the Pocono Raceway in September of each year.
Delighted to read this brief synopsis of some of Don Panoz's many unsung achievements in international motorsport. I knew Don well and miss his powers of creative innovation. I wonder when someone will write a biography worthy of him.
I agree with all the comments that Don was a visionary and extremely personable, generous man. I briefly worked with him during the DaimlerChrysler years to realize his vision of making a pure battery-electric version of the Smart car, decades before Daimler produced it in-house. Truly a great man.
Great article! I was honored to meet Don at Chateau Elan in 2017 and hear him speak. We attended the Concours that September, honored to win our class and then drive our Esperante back to Monterey. Our stay at the Chateau was fabulous- the best of Pebble Beach at one third the cost- and with better service! Don did start a winery and FYI, most of the juice was imported California grapes!