Panoz GT-RA, GT-WC, GTS History & Evolution

In 1997, Don Panoz purchased the Road Atlanta racetrack and racing school in
Braselton, Georgia. At that time, the Nissan 300ZX’s being used by the racing school
were completely worn out. Don was already in the middle of extensive upgrades and
improvements to the facilities when the subject of replacing the worn out racing school
cars came up. He felt very strongly that there was no point buying cars from another
manufacturer when his son, Dan, had his own car company less then 10 minutes away
from the track. He felt “that if you are going to a Panoz Racing School at a Panoz owned
and operated track, then you need to be driving a Panoz.”
Don asked Dan about supplying cars and at the time, Dan’s facilities were busy
producing the Panoz Roadster and working on the design of the Panoz Esperante. The 4-
wheeled motorcycle like nature of the Roadster made it an unlikely candidate for a racing
school car and the Esperante just wasn’t far enough along in its development to be a
viable alternative. The fundamental shape of the Esperante was defined, but Panoz Auto
Development had just begun extensive tweaking of the shape to refine it into the beautiful
road car that it is today. Panoz took 4 inches out of the middle, 2 inches out of the
wheelbase, made it a convertible and ultimately resurfaced every panel from the concept
car. While all of that work was going on, it was decided that the coupe roof styling of the
original concept plus the extra width and wheelbase of the original concept car would
actually work better for a racecar. Panoz Auto took this original shape and built a
traditional steel tube frame racecar chassis under it.
The chassis was designed to be simple, rugged and easy to maintain. It was
designed to accommodate as many off the shelf racecar components from traditional
“Saturday night stock car” suppliers as possible. These parts and pieces were chosen
because they required a minimum of maintenance and are essentially bullet proof. The
well proven 5.0Liter Fuel Injected Ford V-8 was picked as the power plant, coupled to a
Tremec transmission driving a Ford 9” rear axle. The result of this effort was the only
racing school using purpose built, V-8 tube frame GT racecars. This batch of cars from
1998 was so well received that the Panoz Racing School empire expanded over the next
few years to additional schools at Sebring International Raceway in Florida, Mosport
International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada and Texas World Speedway in
College Station, Texas.

For 1999, Panoz Auto was asked to build a special version of the racing school
car for the newly formed Women’s Global GT Series. This series was formed to help
give “up and coming” female drivers a better opportunity to break into the traditionally
male dominated sport of auto racing. The series was developed in conjunction with
female Indy racer Lynn St. James and the cars were revised to accommodate the
aluminum block, 4-cam, 32-valve Modular Ford V-8’s used in the Panoz road cars. The
series ran for two seasons as a support race at all of the ALMS (American LeMans
Series) events and several of the drivers graduated to the ranks of ALMS regulars,
driving in all of the classes from the GT class all of the way up to the LMP prototypes.
After two years the series was opened up to male competitors and renamed the Panoz Pro GT Series. The series continued supporting selected ALMS events as well as Panoz only events and provided a unique opportunity for drivers to make the transition from the
amateur ranks to a professional series.

For 2000, Panoz Auto began building another batch of the driving school based
race cars, this time fitted with a 400 horsepower carbureted 5.8 liter pushrod V-8. Panoz
Auto got these cars approved for grassroots SCCA (Sports Car Club of America)
competition in their GT-1 class. The cars were designed to be “Spec. Racers” where all
of the key variables are tightly controlled so that it is a race of drivers and not of wallets!
The suspension pieces all were fitted with special holographic decals and the shocks,
engine, transmission and rear end all got special tamper proof seals to keep anyone from
cheating. The cars were not intended to compete directly with the other GT-1 cars, which
tend to be very expensive ex-Trans-Am cars, but were run as a class within a class. The
goal was to get enough cars out there and competing to one day be assigned their own
class. For 2004 the SCCA reassigned the cars to the GT-2 class where they now have a
realistic chance to vie for a National Championship at the season ending Valvoline
Runoffs.

The Marlboro Penske Racing Experience Inc. cars are the most recent evolution
of the Panoz school car platform. The REI cars have been fitted with the latest normally
aspirated version of Ford SVT’s 320 horsepower, 32 valve, 4-cam, 4.6 liter V-8, Tremec
T-45 5-speed transmissions, 9 inch rear axles and passenger seats and safety gear. The
cars feature Pi System 2 instrumentation with data logging capabilities, Brembo brake
calipers, Performance Friction brake rotors and pads, Penske racing shocks, H&R
springs, Visteon radiators, Corbeau seating, ATL fuel cells, Simpson safety harnesses and window nets and Life Line fire suppression systems. They are fitted with the
thermoformed ABS body panels, developed for the racing school cars, based on the
original Panoz Esperante concept shape and feature an extruded aluminum rear wing to
finish off the car. Weighing in at only 2,700 lbs. these cars will provide years of fast, fun
entertainment for drivers and passengers alike.


John M. Leverett
Dir. of Engineering/R&D