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Petit Le Mans may attract 100,000 or more
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Petit Le Mans road race

When: 11:15 a.m. Saturday
Where: Road Atlanta, 5300 Winder Highway, Braselton
Tickets: $65 (kids ages 12 and younger free with paid adult)
Parking: Free, near main entrance; infield parking available for $40
TV: SPEED (Charter channel 40)
More info: 800-849-7223 or www.roadatlanta.com.

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As racing fans pour into town this weekend for the Petit Le Mans, it's Stacey Dickson's expectation that they'll also flood local hotels, shops and restaurants.

The sports car endurance race, held annually in Braselton, is projected to bring in more than $10 million in spending to the area, said Dickson, president of the Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"It attracts all kinds of demographics and they have fluent spending habits," Dickson said, adding money often spreads to grocery stores and gas stations.

Area hotels are almost booked solid, with all 281 rooms at Lake Lanier Islands Resort rented for Saturday and few rooms remaining at Holiday Inn Express and Hilton Garden Inn in Gainesville.

"Hotels always fill up first in Hall County because of the proximity," Dickson said. "Some people are staying as far away as Buckhead."

The Petit Le Mans features high top speeds and high-end race cars, such as Corvette, Audi and Porsche, to name a few. The race is in its 13th year.

Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said Road Atlanta has been an economic engine for Hall County for years. She expects to see more than 100,000 fans.

"It's something different," Dunlap said. "It's unusual in the South to have this international race in our backyard."

Early indicators show there may be record-breaking attendance this year. Ticket pre-sales have outpaced what organizers predicted, Dickson said.

Dickson added that sunny weather this weekend also should boost attendance.

"Last year, we had torrential rain and it was a muddy mess out there," Dickson said. "We still had good attendance, but it kept some away."

The main race for Petit Le Mans begins Saturday morning.

Col. Jeff Strickland of the Hall County Sheriff's Office said there will be extra deputies to handle any increase in call volume and people should expect some traffic delays.

The race will be aired on SPEED television this year and it also draws international acclaim, which local tourism officials hope will inspire more economic activity.

"If people are waiting a few extra minutes for a table this weekend, they need to think that everyone who comes in helps offset property taxes," Dickson said.

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