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Panoz goes to PWC with two-car Avezzano program

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Dr. Don Panoz is always known for shaking things up, as one of the stalwarts of North American sports car racing over the last 20 years.

Panoz now has planned a two-car entry into Pirelli World Challenge with his new Avezzano program. Ian James, a past Panoz driver, is the first confirmed driver.

This marks the series’ second major former IMSA team coming over today, with Magnus Racing announcing its switch this morning. Panoz had hoped to run the DeltaWing at the Rolex 24 at Daytona for a final outing, having announced it at the same time as the Avezzano was revealed, but later withdrew plans.

The full release is below:

Panoz returns to GT racing in 2017 as Team Panoz Racing, kicking off its first season with Pirelli World Challenge. Led by motorsports veteran Tom Milner, Team Panoz Racing will field a two-car, full-season entry racing the new Panoz Avezzano sports car in the GTS class.

Team Panoz Racing also announced that sports car racer Ian James has been named the first of two team drivers. James will campaign the No. 50 Panoz Avezzano, starting with the St. Petersburg, Fla, race.

Hailing from England but now living in Arizona, James is one of only a handful of race drivers who has won races in the Prototype, GT, Grand Sport and Sport touring classes. James also has a Panoz history, having driven for Tom Milner and PTG Inc. when it fielded the Panoz Esperante in 2009 and the Panoz Abruzzi in 2010 and 2011. Milner, as previously announced, is managing Panoz’s GT race program and development of the Panoz Avezzano race car.

Team Panoz Racing expect to announce its second driver, who will race Panoz Avezzano #51, in the near future.

Panoz experts have been busy this fall/winter developing the Avezzano race car while ramping up production of the Panoz Avezzano street car, Panoz’s first new sports car since the Esperante. The all-carbon fiber race car features a wide-body configuration with clear-coated carbon fiber splitter, side skirts and rear diffuser and GT race car style side exhausts.

The new Avezzano features the next-generation of the Panoz-designed extruded aluminum chassis; a completely new rear suspension design; and an upgraded suspension, brake and wheel package. Powering the Avezzano is a standard 6.2-liter, 450-plus horsepower Panoz/Èlan aluminum block V8 mated to a heavy duty, close ratio six-speed manual transmission. Avezzano street car production is underway, with first customer cars expected this summer.

The team plans to begin testing its new race car in March prior to competing on the streets of St. Petersburg, March 10-12, 2017.

“After a few years of taking a step back from racing, I’m excited to be back and especially with my good friend Don Panoz and his team. Very happy to have Ian join us and we plan on giving the competition a hard time!” Milner said.

“I am very excited to be back behind the wheel of a Panoz race car and entering the exciting World Challenge series. The GTS platform is the wave of the future and I expect the new Avezzano to be a contender,” James added.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).