Last weekend marked the 20th annual running of the Petit Le Mans (PLM) at Road Atlanta. That also marked back-to-back weekends that Second Daily was in Brasleton, GA. There’s something you can’t say happens very often unless you either a.) work at the Chateau Elan or b.) work at Road Atlanta. Neither of which we do, but I will admit, neither of those would be a bad gig to have…that is, if you got to race cars and drink wine all the time.
The PLM is a sports car endurance race held annually at Road Atlanta and uses the rules established for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Races like this are unique in that multiple race classes are on the track at the same time. The race was founded by then, Road Atlanta owner, Dr. Don Panoz and first ran on October 10, 1998.This first PLM was sanctioned by Professional Sports Car Racing (PSCR), previously known as the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA). The winner of that inaugural race was a Ferrari 333SP driven and the Champion Porsche 911 took first in GT1 class. The endurance part of the equation is, the PLM spans a full 10 hours but prior to 2010, it was 1000 miles or 10 hours, whichever came first.
The best part of the race wasn’t seeing the RLL BMW M6 take the top spot in the GTLM series, or the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 round out the top 3. Also great, but not the best part, was capturing the #47 Trianon car tangle with the #19 Moorespeed 911 on the last turn before green in the Porsche GT cup series race.
The Ford GT made its triumphant return, that was great. We got up close and personal with the soon-to-be winner Audi R8 before the race. We certainly loved seeing the AMG Weathertech cars enter this year. And there’s really nothing better than seeing a Lamborghini Huracán flat out on the back straight.
But perhaps best of all was seeing the face of my 9-turning-10 year old eyes wide open at his first real road race, pointing and naming every car as it drove past at 100+ mph. Watching his excitement walking through the paddock and literally helping push a Ford GT into position. Racing to Vendor’s row to buy a motorized 1:24 scaled model…not of a P1 prototype or an eye catching blinged-out H2, but of an understated and very cool 1971 Lamborghini Miura. And better than that, was watching him defend (and explain) it to his friends.
The PLM allows you to get up and close and personal with the cars and teams. We stood on the track as Fox Sports covered the start. You can stand behind pit row and watch the cars come in, watch the race as the crew sees it. Thursday night practice is amazingly fun, glowing headlights and rotors. Watch it from atop the 100ft Ferris wheel, or from any other vantage point you choose. Never have I experienced a race that allows such up close and personal encounters. This isn’t a news recap of the winners, or an in-depth interview with the pole position leader. This is simply to say, if you’ve been thinking about taking your kids camping for a weekend, eating camp food and watching some really cool cars race by, put the Petit Le Mans on your 2018 calendar. You won’t regret it.