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Petit Le Mans lures thousands of racing fans to Braselton
Visitors fill area hotels for Saturday's road race
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Petit Le Mans

When: Today and Saturday
Where: Road Atlanta, 5300 Winder Highway, Braselton
How much: $50-90 at the gate
Contact: 770-967-6143
More info: www.roadatlanta.com/index.php/petit-le-mans-road-atlanta

Top drivers to compete at Road Atlanta

Racing enthusiasts from around the world are in Braselton this weekend for Petit Le Mans.

The sports car endurance race held at Road Atlanta in Braselton began Wednesday and runs through Saturday. Area hotels and restaurants say the event helps bring an influx of traffic and tourism annually.

“We’re happy to have them,” said Richard Labriola, Hilton Garden Inn of Gainesville manager. “Every year it’s a real boost, I think, to the economy around here because they spend a lot of money, that’s for sure.”

Yogesh Patel, general manager of Hampton Inn and Suites in Flowery Branch, said area hotels tend to fill with teams, drivers and event staff.

“The teams that come here to represent their organizations book about a year ahead, but spectators book about a month ahead of time,” Patel said. “There’s a lot of camper and RV activity, so we don’t get as many spectators staying. It’s more of the teams themselves.”

Labriola echoed Patel’s sentiments.

“They generally will book up all of our supply a year in advance,” Labriola said. “Then, as we get closer to the date and their travel plans become more firm, they start releasing some of the rooms back for general sale. So essentially, two-thirds of the hotel are race teams.”

Paula Fernandez-Martin, general manager of Country Inn and Suites in Braselton, said her hotel booked completely for the weekend two days ago, and it also is full of teams and event staff. She said two groups already have booked for next year.

Labriola said Petit Le Mans drivers and team members are used to staying in five-star hotels in Europe, and their selection of familiar hotels is limited in the Road Atlanta area.

“There’s a lack of brand-name hotels up this way and that’s what these guys are generally staying at, because this is a very prestigious and glamorous tour,” he said. “It’s European NASCAR. So they’re used to staying in fine places.”

Diana Pereni, bar manager at Houndstooth Grill & Bar in Braselton, said Petit Le Mans is an opportunity for restaurants to serve heavier traffic and to market to more people.

“It brings in a lot of new clientele,” she said. “We do a lot of catering offers with Road Atlanta as well, and we’ve got a couple of our girls going out to bartend for them during the races. They give out coupons for free appetizers and things like that during the races, just to try to get them over and let them know about us any time they come this way.”

Pereni said the event started bringing in visitors Tuesday night and she expects it to stay busy through Sunday.

“The revenue and the occupancy, just like for all the tourism in the area with all the people staying here for five to seven days, it’s a good thing happening for the town,” Fernandez-Martin said.

Regional events