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Petit Le Mans puts race fans in the driver’s seat

Road Atlanta visitors enjoy close proximity to race action

POSTED: October 20, 2013 12:33 a.m.

Petit Le Mans highlights

Petit Le Mans highlights, Road Atlanta, Braselton, Oct. 19, 2013


Racers and others sign a race car Saturday memorializing British racer Sean Edwards, who was killed Tuesday while a passenger in a testing crash in Australia. Petit Le Mans cars also wore special decals honoring Edwards at the road race at Road Atlanta.

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Cool temperatures and a bout of rain couldn’t deter the throng of fans that gathered for the 16th annual Petit Le Mans race Saturday at Road Atlanta.

The fan-friendly environment at the race track allowed fans to go into the pit and garage areas to get a better look at the sports cars competing in the 1,000-mile/10-hour endurance event.

The 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course also offered fans a chance to park their cars next to the track. From there, they could tailgate and watch the racing action, or move to different locations to watch the race.

Drew Craig traveled from Kennesaw to attend his first Petit Le Mans with his two sons. Drew said he’s more familiar with Formula 1 racing, but recently became a fan of the series.

“I love it, even though the weather is a little bit bad. It’s great,” Craig said. “I love having the different classes of cars on the track at the same time. It keeps it interesting.

“I was telling my two sons earlier that the race is much more like PGA (Tour) event. You can move around, see different angles of the track. I’ve been to dozens and dozens of NASCAR races and this is a little more fan-friendly. You’re closer to the drivers. You’re closer to the action. It’s awesome.

“The access to the fans is much greater than you’d find in NASCAR. I’m still a bigger NASCAR fan, but I’ll definitely be back next year to see this again.”

Craig’s son, Nicholas, is in the Army and said he took his leave to attend the race.

“I’ve been once, two years ago,” Nicholas Craig said. “I’m really enjoying it right now. I don’t know a whole lot about it, but I’m learning it as I go.”

He said he likes the pits being accessible for the fans, something other race series don’t offer.

“I’ve been coming to Petit for about 10 years now,” said Brandon Simkavita, a fan from Stone Mountain. “I’ve always come to the track quite often for other events, too.

“It’s a great event. It’s well-organized. Lots of things to see. They let you go down into the pits. You can’t do that in NASCAR. ... I’m a big fan for sure. This is true motorsports to me.”

Rudy Herring, Rueben Kennedy and Cisco Vila, three friends from the Atlanta area, have attended the race for nearly 10 years. They said the race experience is great at Road Atlanta, and they don’t want to see the series change.

“The race experience is absolutely awesome,” Vila said. “The draw is that you have multiple brands (of cars), multiple parts, that’s what draws people here.

“This place (Road Atlanta) is near and dear to our hearts. Coolest place to see a race. The (fans) make the race, not the other way around.”

Kennedy said the track itself makes the experience better for fans.

“On this side of the country, it’s the coolest track you have,” he said.


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