Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Panoz Introduces the 600-Horsepower Abruzzi at Le Mans



Panoz Auto Development, a small sports car company based an hour north of Atlanta, was founded in 1989.

Its first car was adapted from a chassis design by a failed Irish start-up called Thompson Motor Company and outsourced V-8 engines from Ford. The result was the Panoz Roadster, a whimsical car that, according to a story in The New York Times, garnered some high praise from the automotive press.

Through the years, Panoz Auto Development has added the Esperante grand tourer and spun-off a racing division, Panoz Motor Sports.

Since the mid-1990s, a Panoz racecar has competed regularly at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which takes place this weekend. On Tuesday, Panoz Auto Development introduced a new sports car, the 600-horsepower Abruzzi, at the Le Mans circuit.

Only 81 Abruzzis will be built by Panoz, and each will commemorate a past 24 Hours of Le Mans event and its overall champion. The final car will be produced to commemorate the 2013 race.

The cars’ serial numbers will include the year of the race and the initials of the winning driver. Each car will be delivered at Le Mans and introduced to its owner on the Bugatti Circuit.

Apparently, a driving lesson of sorts is included in the purchase price, which has not been announced.

The Abruzzi bears some resemblance to the “Batmobile” front engine racecar that Panoz took to Le Mans in 1997, which is to say it is both dramatic and unusual. In fact, the new road car looks more like the Batmobile of cinema fame than did Panoz’s Le Mans racer.

The Abruzzi’s eye-turning shape is formed from a material that Panoz describes as a Recyclable Energy Absorbing Matrix System. A composite material, it is said to be lighter than carbon fiber yet equally strong.

Abruzzi owners will take comfort in knowing that if they wrap their expensive machine around a pole, the material is recyclable.

The origin and specifications of the machine’s 600-horsepower engine are unknown, but it is mounted in a mid-front position and drives the rear wheels through a transaxle.

Some of the exotic ducting on the car is apparently functional and used to direct air to what the company describes as a Trifectacooling system that uses a radiator and two other heat exchangers, which reduce the temperature of the coolant on its way to the radiator and on its way back to the engine.

The car will be road legal in Europe and some countries in Asia, the Middle East and South America. It is not known if it will be certified for the United States.

source: /wheels.blogs.nytimes