Five years after its last win at Sebring, Panoz will return to the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours with its new Abruzzi “Spirit of Le Mans.” The racing version of Panoz Auto Development Company's newest road-going supercar recently started its test program in advance of its competition debut at the 59th running of the Sebring enduro next March.
“The Sebring 12 Hours has long been considered the litmus test for any racing team and car heading to the 24 Hour of Le Mans,” said Don Panoz, founder of Panoz Motor Sports Group. “The demanding nature of Sebring is the perfect platform for the final evaluation of our development program. Furthermore, it makes sense now that the car's first race shall be the first race of the 2011 American Le Mans Series, and on such hallowed ground as Sebring.”
The Abruzzi “Spirit of Le Mans” is being prepped by Tom Milner's Prototype Technology Group. Ian James and Benjamin Leuenberger will drive the Panoz Team entry in the GT class during the 2011 championship.
Panoz and PTG had hoped to race the car at Petit Le Mans earlier this month, and while it did turn a processional lap prior to the annual 1,000-mile/10-hour event and was the centerpiece of the Panoz display in the main paddock, it was not sufficiently developed to compete.
“It was extremely important for us to unveil the Panoz Abruzzi ‘Spirit of Le Mans' at Petit Le Mans,” Panoz said. “I'm glad we could give the fans what they wanted – a glimpse of the new car. There was so much anticipation with so much support for Panoz out there, and particularly here in Braselton as the factory is just down the road. While we had planned on running in Petit Le Mans as an unclassified entry, we had not done any real testing and did not want to take a chance on adversely affecting the other teams with championship hopes. Hence we decided to do only the pace lap.
“Everyone – from PTG, Panoz Auto Development and Élan Technologies to all of our suppliers and partners – worked tirelessly to have a completed, operating racing car for the unveiling at Petit Le Mans and their efforts were absolutely rewarded,” Panoz added. “The response to the Abruzzi ‘Spirit of Le Mans', both from the fans and within the industry has been overwhelming and everyone involved should be very proud of what they have achieved.
“It was fantastic, too, to be able to have the lineage of the Abruzzi ‘Spirit of Le Mans' on display. The Abruzzi not only pays homage to a time when racers would literally drive their own cars to compete in Le Mans, but the highly successful race- and championship-winning history of Panoz.”
Panoz has 10 class victories – including eight overall – in the American Le Mans Series and the 2002 Trans-Am championship.
“With the Road Atlanta unveiling out of the way, we are concentrating on a full development program to ready the car for its race debut at Sebring next year,” Panoz said. “With a solid winter's testing behind it I'm expecting the ‘Spirit of Le Mans' to be well and truly haunting the GT2 field at Sebring.”