BRASELTON, Ga. (December 5, 2000) -- The Panoz Motor Sports Group, which includes the American Le Mans Series, has announced the formation of a new road racing series to be known as the Panoz GT Series.
The new series will feature the same cars and many of the same drivers as the Women's Global GT Series, which is being consolidated into the new series. The Panoz GT Series will hold three events in the 2001 season as support races to American Le Mans Series events.
In addition, the Panoz Racing School Series, which started in the 2000 season, will expand to five races in 2001, and will also utilize the Panoz Esperante sports cars from the former WGGTS.
The Panoz GT Series will not only be open to women who competed in past WGGTS races, but also to qualified drivers of either gender.
Events for the new series will be held along with ALMS races at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway (Mar. 17), Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ont., Canada, (Aug. 19), and Road Atlanta (Oct. 6). Prize money will be awarded and points will be kept to determine a series champion. The races will be 45-minute timed events.
Scott Atherton, President and COO of the Panoz Motor Sports Group, cited financial considerations as the prime reason for the consolidation of the WGGTS into the Panoz GT Series. The WGGTS was the first and only professional racing series for women in North America.
"The women's series was a fantastic idea and an outstanding vision, but unfortunately it may have been ahead of its time," said Atherton. "Despite very strong efforts by many people, a title sponsor to help offset the enormous costs of operating the series could not be secured.
"The Panoz GT Race Series can be operated much more economically," he said. "Just as the women's series did, it will provide a platform for aspiring drivers to demonstrate their abilities to hopefully advance their careers to the American Le Mans Series."
Milka Duno, Belinda Endress, Divina Galica and Cindi Lux, regular competitors in the WGGTS during its two-year existence, have all competed in ALMS events during the 2000 season as a result of their successes and exposure in the WGGTS.
"This was a great series with a great vision," said Endress, who made her ALMS debut in the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta this past September. "It showcased women drivers and gave them the opportunity to achieve their goals. It has virtually changed my life and is continuing to open doors that before were non-existent."
Lux, who was the champion of the WGGTS in its inaugural 1999 season, welcomes the formation of the Panoz GT Series. "Some critics have wondered how we would do against our male counterparts driving the Panoz GT cars," she said. "Well, the time has come. I look forward to racing hard with qualified drivers, male or female."
Lux' comments were echoed by WGGTS driver Dana Moore, winner of the Most Improved Driver award for the 2000 season. "Racing is racing, and I welcome the new series and hope to participate," she said. "The car doesn't know, nor does it care if you're a man or woman. When you get in the car, all genders are out the window."
"I think it will be great that the new series will be mixed and men and women are going to be racing against each other in equal cars," said Sonja Bayer, WGGTS champion in 2000. "It will be interesting to see how men react when women are faster."
Atherton said that financial incentives will be in place with the new Panoz GT Series for former WGGTS regulars to help them continue their racing careers. As has been the case for WGGTS races, drivers will draw for the car they drive and will be allowed to work with mechanics on setup. They will also be allowed to sell sponsorships for their cars to help offset the costs of competing. The events will have practice and qualifying on separate days from races.
The expanded Panoz Racing School Series will include three events at Road Atlanta, one at Sebring and one at Mosport. In the school events, drivers will share cars in a rotation of drivers and will not be allowed to make changes to setups. The races will be shorter than the 45-minute Panoz GT Race Series events.