by Jonathan Ingram - Photos by John Brooks
This book is dedicated to a very special car that surprised everyone in the racing world by its unique design. In less than one year from the time the first Panoz Roadster S turned a wheel, a total of five chassis became front-runners in the American Le Mans Series, the Sports Racing World Cup and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The interest and commitment from other manufacturers seen at Le Mans and the FIA GT Championship, however, was absent in the American series. With factories committed to building whatever was necessary to win at Le Mans, the message came through bigger than skywriting for Don Panoz and his teams.
A massive re-design and build of the GTR-1 would be necessary to compete with the factory entries such as the ones built by Porsche, Mercedes and Toyota. Or, a new car had to be built.
From Chapter Six
Mario Andretti says he immediately began to “fall in love” with the Panoz LMP-1 Roadster S the moment he got behind the wheel to test the outlandish prototype. It was only natural that Andretti, in love with the Le Mans 24-hour since his first drive at the Circuit de la Sarthe in 1966, signed up to drive in the famed endurance race with Panoz Motor Sports for the race in 2000.
When Andretti says he’s found a race car he can love, they are not words to be taken lightly considering the record of a man who has over four decades of motor racing experience in some of the most famous, exciting and effective race cars ever built.
“The driver falls in love with an endurance car when the car really stays under him,” said Andretti. “I’ve fallen in love with endurance cars, Fords, Ferraris or Porsches because they stayed with me. You think you’re in there for days after a while, and then you think, ‘This thing still feels good underneath me. The car still behaves.’ And you love that. You think, ‘God, the beating it’s taking. And it’s still there with me.’ That’s how you fall in love with a car. Where the engine is, to me I don’t think really matters.”