Don Panoz nominated American Le Mans Series founder Dr. Don Panoz has been invited to join the prestigious group of members of the Road Racing Drivers Club, the organization's board has announced. The collection of nominees also includes Marty Kaufman, who serves as Series Race Director.
Dr. Panoz is credited by many in the motorsports industry as the driving force behind sports car racing's resurgence in America during the mid-1990s. He and son Dan led the Panoz brand to worldwide fame with the Panoz GTR1 in 1997, which scored major race wins and championships early in its life. In 1999, Don Panoz launched the American Le Mans Series following a successful debut of the 1998 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. That event marked the first time the "Le Mans" name and brand had been used as part of Dr. Panoz's licensing agreement with the ACO, the governing body of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Today the American Le Mans Series is North America's premium brand of motorsports with world-class teams, drivers and manufacturers competing on both natural terrain road courses and street circuits located in the heart of America's most desirable media markets. The Panoz marque tasted its greatest successes in 2006 with the Panoz Esperante GTLM. The GT2 racer took class wins at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Dr. Panoz also founded Elan Motorsports Technologies, the constructor of a variety of open-wheel and sports car racers. The corporation's biggest achievement came in 2005 when EMT was chosen to be the exclusive provider and builder of the next-generation Champ Car, which will debut this year. Already the DP01 chassis has been met with praise and acclaim by Champ Car leadership, teams and drivers, as well as industry leaders and experts.
Away from the race track, Panoz has successfully built world-class golf courses and wineries around the world. They include Chateau Elan Winery & Resort in Braselton, GA, and Diablo Grande in northern California.
Kaufman is a veteran Chief Steward of world-class races including the American Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. His racing involvement began in the mid-1950s as a driver in NHRA and SCCA events, and later as a course worker and race promoter. He joined the SCCA's Stewards program in 1970, was Trans-Am series Chief Steward in 1986, and was named IMSA's Race Director in 1987.
"Just because the word 'drivers' is in the RRDC's name doesn't mean they are the only people who have made deep contributions to the public face of worldwide motor racing, and enhanced it by their presence and talents," said RRDC President and 2007 Series GT2 entrant Bobby Rahal said.
"What Dr. Panoz (and) Marty Kaufman contributed to the business is equally as important, and more than qualifies them to be invited to join the RRDC," Rahal added.
The club's leadership strives to support and promote American drivers, and is focused on bringing the experience of its members in the "business of racing" - marketing, sponsorship, public relations - to help create the next generation of drivers. Other nominees for 2007 included Vic Elford, Janet Guthrie, John Weinberger and Peter Brock.