Don Panoz takes to the track aboard his own LMP900 Prototype

Panoz Motor Sports and American Le Mans Series founder Don Panoz yesterday took the chance to drive his own race winning "Spirit of America" LMP-01 prototype sportscar - taking to the track for the first time in an open-cockpit sportscar.

Don Panoz at full speed.
Photo by Panoz Motor Sports.

The 67-year-old drove the #50 car at a corporate track day at Road Atlanta, getting a first hand sample of what it is like to drive one of the most unique cars in sportscar history.

Prior to climbing aboard the American Le Mans Series challenger, Panoz had spent the day with corporate guests lapping the Georgian circuit in Panoz Racing School cars.

"Wow! - that was certainly the first word that popped into my head when I got back to the pits," Panoz said.

"I was probably quicker around here in the school car, but it was a fantastic experience to see what the race car is like.

"All of my drivers in the past have said this is such a different car to drive and I can now see what they mean.

"I certainly wasn't out there to break any records, but it was really interesting to try the paddle-shift system and get a bit of a feel for the car.

"The carbon brakes were also very impressive, but I probably wasn't going anywhere near fast enough to get them up to temperature."

Panoz climbed aboard the car after test driver Gunnar Jeannette performed an initial shake-down of the #50 chassis.

Don Panoz at the wheel of his own race winning "Spirit of America" LMP-01 prototype sportscar.
Photo by Panoz Motor Sports.

Impressively, the team owner managed to leave the pits for the first time without stalling the car.

"I think in the future I am going to leave the driving to the professionals, but this was certainly a lot of fun," Panoz said.

"We are currently talking to several drivers about this season and we will be in a position to announce our driver line-up in the very near future.

"The team has put in a lot of work since the end of last season and we have now elected to continue with the LMP-01 next year.

"There are some very exciting things on the horizon for our team and everybody is really looking forward to the start of the season at Sebring."

The 51st Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring will be staged at the historic Florida circuit from March 12-15.