Solothurn (CH), 15.09.10. „Goes like lightning, sounds like thunder“ – under this motto sportscars built by Don Panoz acquired a legendary reputation over the last 15 years. At the first weekend of October, Panoz starts into a whole new era with the new Panoz Abruzzi „Spirit of Le Mans“, built for the GT2-class. When the new American Supercar starts into his first race on the 2. October, the „Petit Le Mans“ at Road Atlanta, Benjamin Leuenberger returns behind the steering wheel of a Panoz and will drive the Abruzzi in the 10-hour endurance race. The Swiss sportscar specialist will share driving duties in the Panoz Abruzzi with Britain’s Ian James.
The première race of the Panoz Abruzzi is a return of Benjamin Leuenberger to Panoz after seven years. Back in 2003, Leuenberger drove the famous „Batmobile“, the marvellous Panoz LMP1 Roadster in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and the 24h of Le Mans. „I’m really happy and also very proud to be back at Panoz,“ Leuenberger says. „Don Panoz brought me into sportscar racing seven years ago and also my first start at the 24h of Le Mans was in a Panoz. Seven years ago, I was the last driver who raced the LMP1 and I finished fourth overall at the „Petit Le Mans“. This year I will be the first driver to race with the new GT2-Panoz, also at the „Petit Le Mans“. With the new Abruzzi „Spirit of Le Mans“, a dream of Don Panoz will come true and it feels great that I will be a part of it.“
The Panoz Abruzzi „Spirit of Le Mans“ was introduced at this year’s 24h of Le Mans event in June. From 2011 onwards, a limited series of only 81 cars will be produced. “The car has a fantastic look. The front has the typical Panoz „Batmobile“ style, while the silhouette and the rear end is a tribute to the legendary French sportscar from the pre-war era.“ The Panoz Abruzzi GT2 is currently under construction with Panoz Team PTG, the racecar will be powered by a 6,2 litre V8-engine. „PTG works at full speed to built the Panoz Abruzzi, I’m really looking forward to work with Tom Milner and his team. Our first race at Road Atlanta will be a test for the 2011 season. Road Atlanta is a great track, it has a complete different character then most tracks in Europe. I have some great memories to that track. When I drove for Panoz seven years ago I lived not fare from there. It’s also the home track of Don Panoz, the road going version of the Abruzzi will be built there.“
Results are not in the focus at the première race of the Panoz Abruzzi in October. „The car will be ready just in time for the start of the race week, but Don Panoz will show it to the Fans at one of the masterpiece events of his American Le Mans Series and will also collect experience for 2011. In the GT2 class of the ALMS, there is an unbelievable strong competition, most of the teams are factory or factory-supported teams. I’m looking forward to the challenge to race in the best GT2-class in the world. As the Panoz Abruzzi is not homologated yet, we will not be classified in the race and will not get points. Our main goal is to gather as much data and experience as possible and to finish the race.
Beside the „Petit Le Mans“, there is also a second race scheduled for Benjamin Leuenberger in the Panoz this year. If the première at Road Atlanta will be successful, Panoz Team PTG will enter the 6 hours of Zhuhai in China (7. November), the second round of the new „Intercontinental Le Mans Cup“, the new world series for sportscars created by the Le Mans-organiser ACO.
Facts about the street legal Panoz Abruzzi „Spirit of Le Mans“:
– limited production of 81 numbered cars, one car for each edition of the 24h of Le mans until 2013, the planed production end
– 6,2 litre V8-engine with 640 HP
– Bodywork manufacted in a new mulit layer composite system, never used before on a automobile, lighter then carbon fiber, but equal strong
– Production starts 2011, delivery of the cars at Le Mans