The IMSA community is profoundly saddened by the news that its Vice Chairman, Don Panoz, passed away from cancer at the age of 83.

A lifelong entrepreneur, the charismatic Panoz is best known to race fans as the founder of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and creator of the famously loud and uniquely styled front-engined Panoz LMP1 racecars.

Panoz fell in love with the unique atmosphere at the 24 Hours of Le Mans after experiencing it himself for the first time. Panoz aimed to replicate the spirit of Le Mans, its unique rules and regulations while adding his own fan-friendly atmosphere, first through the creation of a “one-off” event at Road Atlanta, the 10-hour or 1,000-mile Petit Le Mans, which debuted on Oct. 11, 1998. The overall winners of that inaugural race were co-drivers Eric van de Poele, Emmanuel Collard and WeatherTech Championship Prototype champion team owner Wayne Taylor.

Buoyed by the success of Petit Le Mans, Panoz founded the ALMS, a series of races throughout North America on world-class racetracks, including three that he owned: Sebring International Raceway, Road Atlanta, and Mosport - what today is known as Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Panoz became a driving force for sports car racing in North America at a time when the sport was badly in need of direction, vision and leadership.

Under Panoz’s watchful eye, the ALMS was the first motorsports sanctioning body's to open the pre-race starting grid to race fans, enabling them to walk among the cars and drivers on the racetrack minutes before the start of each race. It’s a practice that is still a part of every IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race – and has been replicated by many racing organizations around the world.

Champ Car DP01