Dr. Donald Panoz, entrepreneur and racing innovator, has passed away at the age of 83. While Panoz is credited for the creation of the nicotine patch in the medical sector, the doctor is also known for his great contribution to motorsports and its growth in the United States.
Panoz became involved in the automotive scene in the early 90s when his son founded the Panoz Automobile Company. The company would then serve as a bridge for him to enter the motor racing scene later on with the debut of the Panoz Esperante GTR-1 which entered in the FIA GT Championship and even Le Mans. The GTR-1 managed to clinch numerous victories in the GT1 category despite being a front-engined model going up against more traditional rear-engined race cars.
Because of his experience in Le Mans and racing in Europe, Don Panoz wanted to bring something similar to the U.S. He then held Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, one of the few tracks he purchased, which would, later on, become the American Le Mans Series. The league would bring in major manufacturers and even more spectators to the sport.
In more recent times, one of the projects Panoz was heavily involved with was the open-top oddly-shaped DeltaWing racer. After partnering with Nissan, the DeltaWing LMP1 went on to compete in Le Mans, going away from the traditional approach. Today, Panoz racers such as the Avezzano GT4 are still very competitive in numerous series around the world.