The Panoz Esperante GTR-1 thundered its way into race fans’ memories with its cacophonous V8 roar and blistering pace on the world’s sports car endurance racing circuits. Today an important part of the GTR-1’s history returns – the original street-legal 1997 Panoz Esperante GTR-1 Le Mans Homologation Special that was created so the iconic front-engine Esperante GTR-1 race car could compete in the 1997 24 Hours of Le Mans and other endurance racing events.

GTR-1 rear 3-4 IIPanoz completed the Esperante GTR-1 Le Mans Homologation Special’s six-month restoration at its headquarters in Braselton, Ga. in October. This only remaining Esperante GTR-1 Le Mans Homologation Special is the brand’s featured exhibit at the Dubai International Motor Show. Panoz fans can see it November 10-14 in Booth No. Z277, Hall ZAB2 at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

When entrepreneur Don Panoz commissioned racecar designer Adrian Reynard to create the Esperante GTR-1 for his newly founded Panoz Motor Sport Group, it was the first front-engine prototype race car in more than 30 years of motorsports. Rules required homologation – building street-legal versions – in order to compete.

The Panoz Esperante GTR-1 with its 6.0-liter Ford-based V8 engine competed in international endurance racing in various forms from 1997 to 2003. And one version, the 1998 Panoz Q9 GTR-1 Hybrid – affectionately known as Sparky – was the first successful modern hybrid race car. In all, the Panoz Esperante GTR-1 scored 20 podium finishes with five overall wins and nine class victories.

While based on the very successful GTR-1 race car and constructed very similarly to its racing siblings, this Esperante GTR-1 Le Mans Homologation Special sports a full leather interior, is street legal, and is driven locally on occasion. Here are its basic specifications as currently configured:

  • 600-plus horsepower, 500 lb ft of torque (estimate)
  • ZF six-speed transaxle
  • 1,980 lbs (898 kg)
  • 175 inches long / 78 inches wide (444.5 cm / 198 cm)
  • Brembo front discs, eight-piston, four-pad calipers
  • Brembo rear discs, four-piston, four-pad calipers
  • 285/40-R18 tires on 18 x 10.5-inch OZ Racing center-lock wheels

It has remained in the Panoz collection in Braselton its entire existence.

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An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP), the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at AaronOnAutos.com.

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