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Petit Le Mans revs up local cash registers
Event brings thousands of fans, millions of dollars to area
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Huge crowds walk the track at Road Atlanta prior to last year’s Petit Le Mans road race. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

Petit Le Mans
When: 11:30 a.m. today
Where: Road Atlanta, Braselton
Race: 10 hours or 1,000 miles
Tickets: $70, ages 12 and under free; parking pass $50
More info: 800-849-7223, www.roadatlanta.com

Now in its 15th year, the Petit Le Mans makes its way back to Road Atlanta this weekend, bringing with it international race teams, thousands of spectators and millions in revenue for regional economies.

In 2005, a study of the weekend’s economic impact concluded that the race had a $53 million impact on Hall County alone, Road Atlanta President Geoff Lee said.

“If you look at the overall regional economic impact associated with this event, it’s mind-blowing,” Lee said.

Last year, the track played host to more than 130,000 visitors over the weekend. In fact, four of the last five races have boasted record attendance numbers.

“This year’s tracking to be every bit as good,” Lee said.

Lee said he would estimate the economic impact has increased at least 20 percent since 2005. That would mean a nearly $65 million impact in Hall County this weekend.

“The Petit Le Mans and Road Atlanta is one of the biggest tourist attractions certainly here, but also in the state of Georgia,” said Kit Dunlap, Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce President. “Sometimes you take for granted the things that are in your county, but this is huge.”

The Petit Le Mans, the “little sister” race to the Le Mans in France, is one of the most popular international sporting events. The 2010 races reached 900 million households across the globe. BMW, Ferrari, Audi, Porsche and Peugeot are just a few of the vehicle models on the tracks.

Braselton, the host city of Road Atlanta, sits at the intersection of four counties: Barrow, Gwinnett, Hall and Jackson.

The impact the race has can be felt in all of those communities and more.

“Those people fill up hotels, eat in restraints, shop not only in Hall County, but the whole Metro Atlanta area,” Dunlap said.

And, race officials said, not only does the race help boost local economies, it also provides a platform for fundraising for local volunteer groups, including the Boy Scouts and various school booster clubs.

Lee said there are some communities who would rather not deal with the associated traffic and noise of the races, but Hall County and local residents understand its importance in the area.

“They have been very supportive of Road Atlanta and this event in particular,” Lee said.  “It’s more than worth it because of what it does for the region.”

Regional events