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Track offers more than just race cars
Petit Le Mans offers fan- and kid-friendly activities at Road Atlanta
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Adam Robinson of St. Petersburg, Fla., makes breakfast while Sparkle Genera of St. Petersburg looks on during last year's Petit Le Mans road race at Road Atlanta. The track offers space for camping along with numerous fan-friendly activities during this weekend's road race. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Petit Le Mans road race

When: 11:15 a.m. Saturday

Where: Road Atlanta, 5300 Winder Highway, Braselton

Tickets: $65

Parking: Free, near main entrance; infield parking available for $40

TV: SPEED (Charter cable channel 40)

More info: 800-849-7223

There's more to the 13th annual Petit Le Mans road race than cars zipping by spectators at incredible speeds, especially for kids.

Geoff Lee, president of Road Atlanta, said he knows what it's like to bring his kids to the racetrack.

"Their first 15 minutes of sitting in that seat are great, but for the next four hours, it's ‘What are we going to do? I'm done with this,'" Lee said.

Lee says not to worry, though, because the Petit Le Mans has plenty of activities that will not only keep the children entertained, but are enjoyable for fans of all ages.

First stop, Lee said, is usually the Vendor Village. In addition to buying souvenirs, "there's different games they can try and interactive activities."

Not far from there is the Petit Pit Stop where kids can go to play, have fun and just be kids. They can get their faces painted, jump in inflatable castles and much more.

"There are live, big screen TVs," Lee said, "so mom and dad don't have to miss anything while their kids have fun."

One thing that entertains both adults and children is the open paddock. Everyone has a chance to go down to meet the drivers and watch the crews do some work on the cars.

"It's like watching a full-blown machine shop," Lee said. "In most forms of racing, you can't get that close and personal."

That's not the only chance to meet the drivers and take a close look at the cars.

Before the racing begins, Road Atlanta will open the grid up so people can mingle with the drivers, the pit crews and the cars before the drop of the green flag.

"The kids are usually just overjoyed to be that close to the cars and drivers at an international race," Lee said.
One exciting aspect outside of the race is the Thursday night practice. The only light is from the headlights on the 40 cars racing around the track in the dark.

Throughout the weekend, drivers and teams have various tech talks scheduled on the paddocks letting fans in on the mechanical and technical aspects of a road race crew.

"You can go up and hear about what they're doing, or what the latest transmission is, or what sort of fuels the cars are running on and other things like that," Lee said.

Also scheduled throughout the entire event are several different auctions that offer memorabilia and other items from the race teams.

An autograph session is scheduled Friday where fans of all ages can meet the drivers, say hello and get them to sign their souvenirs to make the whole experience even more memorable.

Car corrals will bring street cars up for viewing as well. Fans and enthusiasts can go look at the cars that people drive and all the modifications that they make.

"It's fun to see the very unique ones that people bring here to show off," Lee said.

There's also a sports bar for adults, allowing them to get a drink and watch other sporting events if they want to take a break from racing.

There are also playgrounds and concession stands, plus camping areas for those who want to stay overnight. All who attend can walk around and experience everything Petit Le Mans has to offer.

"One of the benefits of a road course like Road Atlanta is the ability to move around," Lee said.

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