We follow up the tributes paid to the late Dr Don Panoz yesterday with a further trio who had significant history with, and the friendship of, Don.
Lawrence Tomlinson, Chairman Ginetta Cars
Team Owner & Driver Team LNT, 2006 Le Mans 24 Hours GT2 Champions With Panoz Esperante.
“Don was a true friend to me and an inspiration. He did things his way and constantly came up with new ideas to challenge the dominance of large manufacturers, he made motorsport fun and gave fans something extra special to cheer about. Whenever Don said he’d do something you knew he’d make it happen.
“I was extremely proud to be able to help a friend achieve his goal of a win at Le Mans with his own car, designed by his son Dan, ever since he & Dan have always called me “TomLeMans” and they’ve been a part of our family and I have been made to feel a part of theirs.
“Don was a friend but also a father figure to me, he created happy days for everyone he was around, he was missed at Le Mans this year, the paddock is not the same without him.
“We should celebrate what Don brought to our lives by all doing something different from the norm, challenge convention and push everything to the limit……. god bless you mate.”
Fiona Miller, FIA WEC Media Manager
Press Officer for the Panoz LMP1 team during their ALMS campaign.
“We’ve got a great deal to thank Don Panoz for. He gave us the ALMS, the great “for the fans” strap line, championed hybrid power long before anyone else with the Q9, otherwise known as “Sparky”, and gave me my first job working in the American racing world, working for Panoz Motor Sports as a PR rep, the start of some of the happiest years of my career.
“Don’s many other contributions to motorsport and personal attributes have been widely documented elsewhere, but inevitably it’s the ‘human’ element of his character you remember most.
“From 1997 on, they were great years and he gathered together a group of people who shared his passion, who laughed at his crazy jokes, who broke new ground (and a few eardrums) with the Panoz racing beasts, winning together in America and Europe. He never did master ‘Dive’ Price’s south London accent, but never gave up trying… and that really sums him up. Persistent, passionate and a true visionary in this sometimes-foggy arena.
“Thank you, Dr P.”
David Price, Team Manager/ Team Principal Panoz Motor Sports
Dave ran factory cars for Don Panoz in three separate periods covering the GT1, LMP1 and DeltaWing eras.
His first involvement came as Reynard’s John Piper designed the Esperante GTR-1 GT1 car.
“We did a lot of work for Reynard on the composites side (through Pricey’s DPS Composites outfit) Don came to have a look, we later built the chassis for the new car, and saw our race shop next door, we were still running the McLaren F1s at the time. “He said to me “You ought to think about running one of our cars instead.”
“I didn’t say it but I was thinking “What the *****y hell would I want to that for!”
“As I’d find out repeatedly, Don was very persuasive, not persuasive enough though to get me to buy the cars, I put him straight on that front!
“Once he got the idea how this all worked he was amazing, he always put his money where his mouth was, I ran the cars initially in the World Championship and in a few races in the US, Tony Dowe ran the US end the following year while we built the road car, and got stuck in with ‘Sparky’ (the hybrid drive Q9 derivative of the GTR-1).
“That was Bill Gibson’s idea, but the fact that Don listened, and, again, put his money down was quite something. Don wanted to make a statement, wanted to show that he was serious about where this was all heading and looking back now he was years ahead of the curve. “At the time though it was a nightmare, the car just couldn’t be made to run fast enough to qualify for Le Mans. The Battery pack was absolutely massive, about as big as an armchair, and the car was heavy, around 1300kg, ahead of its time.
“We had it out on the runway of the airport the night before qualifying, Don was there and kept telling me he wanted to hear it whistle, I think Bill had told him that the hybrid drive would make a whistling noise. Anyway, eventually we jammed a reed into the exit duct on the door to make a whistling sound! “It was always about pushing forward, making that statement, and he revelled in being the underdog, taking the fight to the big factories, he loved it!
“After a year way I came back in 2000 and by then we were running the LMP1 Roadsters, what a great time, I always loved racing in the States and with those cars, in the ALMS with Brabs and Mags it was a magic time to go giant killing.
“Next was the Andy Thorby designed 07, with the Mugen engine, a real enigma, Brabs loved it at the first test but after that we really struggled with the car. I told Don that it wasn’t ready for Le mans but he wanted to run it there, we fell out over that and I left to help John Nielsen with his (Panoz) programme, and to expand the composites business.
“Years later I was art the Racing Car Show and got a call from Don, he was there too and wanted to meet, asked me what I was doing (which wasn’t much at that point) and told me he had a project he wanted me involved with. “It’s a bit different!”
“Not again I said, it turned out to be as ‘different’ as it possibly could have been, the DeltaWing! Joking aside I found the whole thing really refreshing, it forced you to think differently than you would about anything else, and while it had its ups and downs I enjoyed that programme.
“DeltaWing was a typical Don Panoz project, you couldn’t imagine anyone else doing it, and he revelled in that. “It was quite a ride with Don, and whilst we had some good-natured disagreement about always going to lunch at the *****y Waffle House there was never any doubt in my mind what a good guy he was, he would do anything for you, he was something that very few with our relationship could say. He was a mate.”