Panoz is getting back into wacky-looking front-mid-engine race cars with a GT4 racer based off its latest sports car, the Panoz Avezzano, the company announced this week. Unfortunately, to make that happen, they needed to pull staff away from one last run of the DeltaWing. The DeltaWing is sadly done.
Panoz may be more known recently for the prolonged legal struggle with Nissan over the intellectual property behind the DeltaWing, but they’ve always been a plucky little car company producing V8-powered sports cars you’re more likely to see racing or in a buff book than in person.
They occasionally release a new model, but given the company’s small size, that one model seems to trickle out of Panoz’s shop forever. The Esperante, for example, still looks much the same as it did when it came out despite a handful of updates—and it’s been around since 2000.
Likewise, the Avezzano looks spookily like the old Panoz Esperante. Hey, Porsche’s with me on this: if you’ve found a design that works, why change?
GT racing—where the cars are based on road cars—will once again put Panoz’s quirky sports cars in front of the masses, and hopefully sell some Avezzanos. Panoz spokesman Gary Fong noted that GT4 was the easiest category they’d found to move into, with less required of the category’s manufacturers than higher-level GT categories. For such a small shop, this was important. “We’re not General Motors,” he said.
GT4 cars race in many different series around the world, including Pirelli World Challenge and in 2018, the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. So, in addition to neat oddities like the Sin R1 and the closed-cockpit KTM X-Bow, we’ll see a Panoz Avezzano, with its long hood and unique wannabe-Batmobile looks.
The team has not determined which GT4-spec series it will be racing in just yet.
The new sports car is powered by an American V8, although the company hasn’t released any specifications on which engine is powering the GT4 car yet. Its road-going version comes with anywhere from 450 to 630 horsepower, depending on which engine you order with it.
The car itself makes extensive use of carbon fiber and aluminum to keep its weight down in order for all of that horsepower to make it go like mad. The company expects to launch production of the Avezzano road car in 2017.
While a humble GT4 racer—not even the top class in Pirelli World Challenge—feels like a major jump down from racing the DeltaWing in the top level of North American prototype racing, at the same time, it feels like a return to form.
Panoz hired 40-year motorsports veteran Tom Milner as the new manager of Panoz Racing. Milner’s PTG Racing team fielded Panoz Esperante cars helped develop the Panoz Abruzzi into an American Le Mans Series racer, and his son Tommy is a current Chevrolet factory driver. Milner came out of retirement to help develop the Avezzano into a FIA GT4-spec racer.
Unfortunately, the need to ramp up the Avezzano project will keep the Panoz DeltaWing from racing one last time at January’s 24 Hours of Daytona. The strange arrowhead-shaped prototype car didn’t fit IMSA’s new regulations for the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship, but it had been given approval to complete one last time at Daytona.
A lack of budget and spares were believed to be contributing factors in the DeltaWing’s withdrawal, according to Sportscar365. With the need to focus the small Panoz shop on the new Avezzano GT4 and other projects, it makes sense to say goodbye to the DeltaWing a little earlier than expected and reallocate those resources to the GT4.
However, Sportscar365 notes that the DeltaWing could still make appearances elsewhere, perhaps running in Europe. Furthermore, Fong confirmed to Jalopnik that knowledge gained in racing the DeltaWing still lives on in the triangular road car they’re still hoping to bring to market, and also eventually make a GT racer out of.
Sadly, though, this means there won’t be any true prototype oddballs left racing. Who’s got the next strange race car idea?