Motorsports Mogul Dr. Don Panoz Dies at 83
We mourn the loss of the man who brought Le Mans to America.
All men desire a legacy, to leave a lasting impression on the world around them, something that will outlast their earthly existence with far-reaching influence on the generations that will follow in their footsteps.
To be remembered for any one great accomplishment is enough for most men. It wasn’t enough for Dr. Donald Panoz, who passed away this week at the age of 83, according to a report from Road & Track. He just kept going, building his legacy larger and larger.
After serving in the US Army, Panoz and his wife moved back to the United States, where he attended Duquesne University to study business. Upon graduation, he entered the field of pharmaceutical research, managing the team that would go on to invent the transdermal patch.
The transdermal patch, a way for time-release medicine to be administered through skin contact, is better known to most of us as the nicotine patch used to help smokers quit the habit. When his company refused to further develop the technology, he left, moved to Ireland, and started a new company, Elan Corporation, who holds the patent for the technology.
This financial success allowed Dr. Panoz to fund other ventures, including several wineries and resorts. To us, he’s best known as the man behind Panoz, the car company that bears his name, and the American Le Mans Series.
Headquartered in Braselton, Georgia, Panoz once owned Road Atlanta, which it used extensively for testing its cars. The company also held stakes in the Mosport and Sebring road courses.
In addition to a string of competent road cars, Panoz has proved itself successful in the racing world, with a class win at Le Mans (an Esperante GTLM won the GT2 class in 2006), a win at the 12 Hours of Sebring, and success in IndyCar racing.
The American Le Mans Series (ALMS), founded by Dr. Panoz in 1998, ran until 2014 before merging with IMSA as part of the Grand-Am Road Racing Series.
It seems impossible to sum up Dr. Panoz’s accomplishments in such a small space. The man’s story is simply too large, too impressive to fit here. We offer our condolences to the Panoz family, and a heartfelt thank you for all Don has done for our hobby and passion.