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Petit Le Mans drives in major revenue
Roger Mumbower of Long Beach, Calif., prepares his Racefan tent for customers Thursday during the 12th annual Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Mumbower has been selling souvenirs and other racing memorabilia since the Petit Le Mans began 12 years ago. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Since the Country Inn & Suites only opened in Braselton two months ago, Kevin Thomas was not expecting the hotel would get much traffic from Petit Le Mans race-goers this year.

But Thomas, the 82-room hotel’s general manager, said he has been pleasantly surprised.

“We’re sold out Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” Thomas said. “Business is good; it’s very good.”

And good business at Thomas’ hotel is good for the Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau. The CVB survives on hotel/motel taxes in the county, and each year Petit Le Mans is the main generator for those taxes, said Stacey Dickson, CVB president.

It’s why Dickson has “nothing but love for the (12th) annual Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda6.”

In a time of poor economic news, the four-day event at Road Atlanta has the potential to significantly rev up the region’s economic engine. Petit Le Mans usually has hotel rooms booked and spiked sales tax revenues.

“From Thursday to Sunday, there’s about $10 million being spent by visitors during the Petit Le Mans ... and that would be conservative,” Dickson said.

Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said hoteliers and restaurateurs especially should benefit from the weekend’s race.

“People, if they’re here for three or four days, they’ll reach out within a few miles or whatever else to do something else in their spare time, too,” Dunlap said.

And already, the Petit Le Mans has hotel rooms full and the local restaurateurs counting on more business.

Chuck Cope, owner of Anthony’s Italian grill in Hoschton, said that though his restaurant is “off the beaten path” from Road Atlanta, the race has impacted his business.

On both Tuesday and Wednesday, drivers in the race pulled into his eatery for dinner. Cope expects more people to find their way to the restaurant as the race gets in full gear this weekend.

“I’d say what (the Petit) Le Mans has done for us, they’ve probably brought us an additional $75 to $100 per evening,” Cope said.

Adam Leish, sales executive for Road Atlanta, said advance ticket sales for Petit Le Mans have surpassed advance sales from the 2008 event.

And last year was a record year for the racing event, with 113,000 people attending, Leish said.

“That traffic on Mundy Mill, though it may be kind of a frustration for locals this one week a year, it helps save them ... about $275 on their property taxes every year,” Dickson said. “So when they’re sitting in that line, just think, ‘Hmm, my tax bill is less because of these people.’ ”